Anger

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Parents respond to the diagnosis of leukemia with anger, and so do children. Not only is the child angry at the disease, but also at the parents for bringing her in to be hurt, at having to take medicine that makes her feel terrible, at losing her hair, at losing her friends, and on and on. Children with cancer have good reasons to be angry.

I think that much anger can be avoided by giving choices and letting kids have some control. Parents need to clearly explain that there are some things that simply have to be done (spinal taps) but that the child or teen is in control of positions, people present, music, even timing. For example, if your teen gets bad headaches after spinals, help him negotiate the date and time when the spinal will be done so that sports or social life will not be impacted.

Justin has extreme bursts of anger sometimes. I don't know if it's related to the leukemia, or if it's just personality or normal development. He starts yelling, and I feel like I have a Tasmanian devil loose in my house. But I just use time-outs ("You go sit on your bed until you are over this") or loss of privileges ("You do this now or you won't be able to watch a movie later").

We have a case of the halo or the horns. Our son is either very defiant or an absolute angel. He argues about every single thing. I really think that it is because he has had so little control in his life. I have very clear rules, am very firm, and put my foot down. But I also try to choose my battles wisely, so that we can have good times, too. My husband reminds me when I get aggravated that if he weren't this type of tough kid, he wouldn't have made it through so many setbacks. Then I am just glad to still have him with us.

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