As we discussed in our blog last week, the Family Centered Care model reflects an understanding that parents are vital partners in their child’s care. But what about your own needs? One of the most common reactions to Digging Deep I’ve heard from parents is, “Hey, I need a book like Digging Deep!”

Being a parent of young children myself, I cannot imagine a more stressful time than if one of them were diagnosed with a serious illness. I would be filled with anxiety, perhaps feelings of helplessness, even anger– a complex mix of emotions. But just as we recommend journal writing to kids that are sick, expressive writing offers parents the opportunity to tap into their own inner strength, right at the time they need it most.

You may find exercises in Digging Deep that you want to answer yourself. This is perfectly OK. Your writing will be at a different level of understanding and emotional depth than that of your child, but yes, some exercises in Digging Deep can certainly fit your needs. You can also create your own journaling sheets in the same way we suggest for siblings. Designing these artful pages may feel healing itself, because it’s fun!

Putting words to one’s feelings helps contain them, and makes them seem more manageable. You may even discover you already have the answers to your most important questions right inside of you. To guide you on your path of self-exploration, we have also created some questions especially for parents below. Enjoy the process of journaling, and its potential for inner transformation.

United We Stand
Very often people hope and imagine that their family will come together in the face of crisis. But family members can have very different coping styles, making it next to impossible to understand the other person’s point of view. Has there been a time when you couldn’t comprehend the response or actions of someone close to you? If so, describe it here.

Anchor in the Storm
Where do you draw strength in times of chaos or crisis? Write about a time when you relied on this source of strength, exploring how you were able to tap into it during turbulent times.

Well Armored
It is natural to want to protect your children from seeing you experience difficult emotions. What do you imagine might happen if your kids witnessed your true feelings? Can you think of a time or a place where honest sharing of feelings might happen naturally?

Nosy Neighbors
Occasionally well-meaning friends or neighbors can be downright annoying. If this has been your experience, describe a time when their ‘help’ was not helpful. Can you think of ways to ask for what you really need?

My Entourage
With whom do you surround yourself? Are there others you would rather be spending time with during this crisis? Can you think of ways to reach out for the friendship and support you truly desire?

Normalizing the Abnormal
Often parents have an urge to try and keep things as normal as possible within the family, despite everything being turned upside down. How has this strategy worked and how has it backfired for you? Are there opportunities to embrace some of the change within the family by either looking at things differently or trying a new approach?

Sheri Brisson

Sheri Sobrato Brisson is a brain tumor survivor who discovered the importance of self-reflection during her recovery. From her personal illness experience and a dozen years supporting families and children with serious illness, her life’s philanthropic mission is to empower families and children facing serious illness. She has started and facilitated support groups for children with illness and their families for over twenty years with organizations such as the American Cancer Society, National Brain Tumor Foundation, Ronald McDonald House, and Packard Children’s Hospital. She has served as Board Member for many children’s health nonprofit organizations including American Cancer Society San Jose, UCSF/Mt. Zion Auxiliary, Creighton Health Institute, and Okizu Foundation. Brisson received her master’s degree in counseling from Santa Clara University and her undergraduate degree in human biology from Stanford University.


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