Download Your guide to the transplant process for tips and information on how to navigate the transplant journey with your whole family.
Life changes for your entire family when you learn your child needs a bone marrow or cord blood transplant. It’s normal for families to go through changes in roles and responsibilities during illness and treatment. It may be helpful to discuss and plan ahead for things like:
- Making plans for who will be where and when
- Deciding who will care for your child in the transplant center and who will manage your family’s other needs at home
- Finding a place to stay and make travel plans if your transplant center is far away
- How to juggle caring for your child in the transplant center with your other responsibilities
Getting your family ready for transplant
Each family is unique and finds its own way to cope with the challenges of the transplant process just as you do through your daily life. Your family may spend less time together than usual and each person may need to take on new roles and tasks.
To help your family manage these challenges:
- Be willing to ask for and accept help from friends and extended family. You don’t have to do it alone.
- Decide who will be transplant caregiver. Consider if other family members and friends can share the caregiver role.
- Make a financial plan.
- Talk with transplant center staff about what to expect. Consider connecting with other parents of transplant patients. Ask whether your transplant center can put you in touch with other families. Or contact Be The Match® and ask about the Peer Connect program which can match you with another family who has already been through transplant.
Taking care of your relationships with your other children
When there is an ill child in a family there is a ripple effect on all family members, including the other healthy children. Just as you are taking care of your ill child there are steps you can take to support your healthy children.
- Make sure to say the words “It is not your fault.” Explain that people can get sick for no reason.
- Let them know you are planning for their care, too. Explain as much as you know about how they will be taken care of while you are at the transplant center.
- Children find comfort in predictability. As much as you can, try to pick something that will be the same every day. It could be that meal time is always at 6:00 p.m., or that you will call at the same time every day.
- Keep them involved and connected to their sick sibling and the entire family. What can siblings do? (PDF) is a list of ideas and encouragement. Or you might find the worksheet A note from me useful. This activity will help brothers and sisters share their feelings, ask questions and identify ways to communicate.
For more helpful tips, check out our Support for siblings resource that provides strategies for helping your well children during the transplant process.
Taking care of your relationship with your spouse or partner
Helping your child through transplant can add challenges to your relationship with your spouse or partner. Throughout the transplant process, be sure to take time for each other and to plan ahead for who will handle different roles and responsibilities.
- Set aside time for each other. You may need to be creative in carving out this time. For example, take lunch breaks or walks together. Ask someone to stay a few hours with your child.
- Talk about your feelings and support each other.
- Be flexible. Try to understand that there is more than one way of coping with stress. It’s okay for you to express your feelings in different ways.
- Try to take turns caring for your child in the hospital. This will give you and your partner a shared understanding of what is happening.
If you and your child’s other parent are separated or divorced, it’s helpful to make a plan of how each parent will be involved in the child’s treatment.
- Meet together with the health care team so you hear the same explanation of the treatment plan.
- Ask for two copies of written materials so you each have the same information.
- Agree on a schedule when each of you will be with your child and how you will handle day-to-day treatment decisions and communications.
- Be sure you understand your legal custody rights and responsibilities.
- Give your transplant center social worker copies of any legal documents that affect who can see your child, such as legal custody agreements or restraining orders.
Your family is not alone. It is OK to ask transplant center social workers, child psychologists and child life specialists to help your family as you go through the transplant process. You may also get support from your family and friends, faith community and families of other transplant patients.
Other helpful resources include: