Article written by Gary Direnfeld
It happens. Childhood cancer.
Like any life altering or threatening diagnosis, it cuts the parents like a knife.
Now imagine those parents separated.
Who, how and when are medical decisions decided? What if there is a difference of opinion regarding medical treatment of the cancer?
Yes, as awful as the diagnosis of such an illness is, worse is when the parents cannot act together.
Through the pain and worries, parents must then seek to address the needs of the child as constructively as possible.
This is where learning those conflict management skills are of utmost importance.
As quickly as you may run to your healthcare provider, if not on the same page with your co-parent, consider moving quickly towards coaching on how to work effectively when confronted with having to make decisions with another whose views are contrary to your own.
If you consider the support of a lawyer in addition to dispute resolution coaching and/or mediation, choose carefully. As best as possible choose based on those who seek to negotiate respectfully. Be mindful that any level of bully tactic may inflame the matter causing additional delays or layers to work though towards an acceptable outcome.
Do also consider team meetings that can include healthcare professionals in addition to an emotional support person for yourself or legal counsel. Very often with all persons available and sharing information together, a more reasoned solution and approach can be facilitated.
These will be trying times. Trying times test patience. Being mindful of one’s fears and finding strategies to manage those fears at the same time can provide for more clarity of mind dealing with all the above.
May you never be in this position.
However, if you are:
- Manage your fears first. If necessary, find support so you can cope and act mindfully in the circumstance.
- Attune yourself with dispute resolution skills. This centers on how to communicate effectively in a context of someone holding a contrary opinion.
- If choosing a lawyer, seek those who can remain respectful and resist bully tactics. Even if court is a necessity, we want everyone focused on the matter, not on anyone’s disposition or style.
- Consider larger meetings that include both parents, emotional support persons and treating professionals so everyone has access to the same information at the same time. If necessary, include your lawyer.
The goal: timely and appropriate treatment of the cancer to enable the best outcome for your child.
Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW.
Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW is a Canadian Social Worker in private practice. He is recognized from his 65 episodes of the hit show Newlywed/Nearly Dead, to over 650 columns as the parenting expert of a major metropolitan newspaper, to more than 600 media appearances, to his book, Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout Canada and the US and helps family peacemakers grow their practice.