Parental experiences and coping strategies when caring for a child receiving paediatric palliative care: a qualitative study

Lisa M. Verberne, Marijke C. Kars*, Antoinette Y. N. Schouten-van Meeteren, Esther M. M. van den Bergh, Diederik K. Bosman, Derk A. Colenbrander, Martha A. Grootenhuis, Johannes J. M. van Delden

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Parenting and providing extensive care to a child with a life-limiting or life-threatening disease while being aware of the future loss of the child are among the most stressful parental experiences. Due to technical and medical improvements, children are living longer and are increasingly cared for at home. To align healthcare professionals' support with the needs of parents, a clear understanding of prominent experiences and main coping strategies of parents caring for a child in need of palliative care is needed. An interpretative qualitative study using thematic analysis was performed. Single or repeated interviews were undertaken with 42 parents of 24 children with malignant or non-malignant diseases receiving palliative care. Prominent reported parental experiences were daily anxiety of child loss, confrontation with loss and related grief, ambiguity towards uncertainty, preservation of a meaningful relationship with their child, tension regarding end-of-life decisions and engagement with professionals. Four closely related coping strategies were identified: suppressing emotions by keeping the loss of their child at bay, seeking support, taking control to arrange optimal childcare and adapting to and accepting the ongoing change(s).Conclusion: Parents need healthcare professionals who understand and carefully handle their worries, losses, parent-child relationship and coping strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1075-1085
Number of pages11
JournalEuropean Journal of Pediatrics
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019


  • Paediatrics
  • Palliative care
  • Parents
  • Caregiving
  • Experiences
  • Coping
  • HOME

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