Taking children with cancer outside during covid-19 lockdown

New data shows that the majority of children up to and including the age of 18 are unlikely to get severe symptoms if they get COVID-19. CCLG has updated their guidance for familes in line with this.

If your child is in the vulnerable category, and able to go outside, then try to make the most of this – even if it’s just for a short walk. Getting outside in the fresh air has lots of health benefits. It helps children (and adults!) to:

• Feel more energised

• Sleep better

• Feeling happier

It also strengthens the immune system.

This new guidance means many families, who have been shielding are now able to go out for socially distanced walks. Isolation can be really challenging and this development is a positive step forward for many of the families we support.

Steps to stepping outside

If you’ve been shielding, the idea of leaving the safety of home can be scary. Gabby – who runs our Parents & Carers’ Facebook group, and is a cancer mum herself – has put together some tips to help make stepping outside for the first time a little easier:

1. Stay close to home – When you head outside for a walk, don’t go too far. A walk around the block or trip to a nearby park is fine. You can always venture further when you feel braver.

2. Choose the time wisely – Consider going for your walk early in the morning or later in the day, as it should be quieter out. It can be something lovely to get up for in the morning or positive to look forward to at the end of the day.

3. Keep it simple – Don’t feel that you have to get out your bikes and scooters, or run a mini marathon.  Keeping things simple will do.

4. Be prepared – Pop a bottle of antibacterial hand gel into your pocket or some alcohol wipes into your bag. That way they’re there if you need them. Face masks aren’t needed as you will be outside and far enough away from other households. Remember to wash your hands when you get home too!

5. Change the focus – Instead of focusing on being outside the house, take something along that will offer a little distraction. Try a fun game or activity, such as a nature hunt or a walking game. Or pop in some headphones and listen to favourite playlist, or podcast.

6. Keep hands busy – Especially for little hands, the temptation to touch everything is strong – from gates to buttons on traffic lights. It may help little kids to hold a favourite toy or a clipboard with an activity on it. It’s a good idea for them to wear clothes with pockets to keep hands safely tucked away and occupied!

7. No biggie – Going outside isn’t something you would normally note on the calendar and it doesn’t need to be any different now. Don’t mark it down to a date, that way you won’t feel disappointed if it doesn’t happen and it stops it from feeling like a big event.

8. No pressure – Don’t put yourself under any pressure. Don’t feel that you have to leave your house more than once a day – or even every day – if you don’t want to. There doesn’t need to be a grand plan attached to you spending some time outdoors, so just do what you feel comfortable with.

9. It’s not a contest – What works best for one person and their family isn’t always going to work best for you and your family. Try not to compare yourself to what others are doing, just focus on what works best for you.

10. Find the right words – Rehearse what you might say if someone comes a little too close for comfort, such as “It’s so lovely to see you but we still need to keep a good distance” or “I’m just going to move further back from you as we have only just come out of shielding.”

11. Be clear – Before you leave the house talk through the things that you will need to remember whilst you are outside. Try to focus on the positives and on all the things that you CAN do.

It’s important to remember that even with these tips, stepping outside might not feel as you expect. Don’t worry if you don’t suddenly feel different – it could take a while for your anxiety around going out to ease. Be kind to yourself and take the time you need to adjust.