Frequently Asked Questions
What is Wonders & Worries?
Wonders & Worries is a Texas-based nonprofit that provides free, professional coping support to children and teenagers during a parent’s serious illness. Services are available in English and Spanish.
What does Wonders & Worries do?
Emotionally healthy families are the cornerstone of a thriving society. Wonders & Worries’ expert child life professionals ensure that children and teens can reach their full potential, despite a parent’s serious illness.
Who are services for?
Wonders & Worries provides free, professional support for children aged 2-18 who have a parent with a serious or chronic illness. Consultations, classes and support groups are also available for parents.
Why do children and teens need support if they’re not the ones who are sick?
Children with a seriously ill parent who do not receive adequate support are vulnerable to serious short-term and long-term consequences. This includes increasing the child’s risks for behavioral, emotional and academic problems. Learn more about evaluations of our services and research in this area.
What do the children and teens get out of the program?
Through activities, games and hands-on exploration led by trained child life experts, children and teens gain:
- An age-appropriate understanding of their parent’s illness, its treatments and side effects
- Strategies for positively expressing feelings related to changes in the family
- Skills for coping with their stress, anger, sadness and fear
- Connections to peers who are sharing similar experiences
How much does does it cost?
Nothing. All Wonders & Worries services are free of charge to families. This includes individual and group sessions, parent consultations, parenting classes and family fun events.
When should a family connect with Wonders & Worries?
As soon as possible after a parent’s diagnosis. Our research-based materials and activities take a few sessions to absorb – ideally, this happens before problems emerge at home or school. The earlier we can connect, the greater our ability to guide a family and build a strong foundation for parents and children.
Does Wonders & Worries work with illnesses other than cancer?
Yes. Wonders & Worries works with families who have a parent with any serious, physical illness. Families facing mental health or substance abuse issues will be guided to other resources.
Does Wonders & Worries offer bereavement support?
If a family connects with Wonders & Worries before a loss occurs, they are welcome to receive bereavement support with us. However, if the loss has already occurred, families will be guided to other grief resources.
Does Wonders & Worries work with siblings of ill children?
No. Siblings of chronically ill children are best served through hospital-based child life specialists because of the connections with their medical team. Families needing sibling support are encouraged to request consultation with a child life specialist at their next clinic appointment. Wonders & Worries can provide referrals to additional resources.
What if the ill family member is a grandparent?
Grandparents often have a vital caregiving role. As such, grandparent illnesses are considered on a case-by-case basis. Call 512-329-5757 to talk through your situation with our professional staff.
What should I do if my teenager says he/she does not want to meet with anyone at Wonders & Worries?
It is not uncommon for teenagers to be resistant. There are several possible underlying reasons. First, they may want their parents to see their strength and know that they can be relied on. They may also feel self-conscious about meeting with an unfamiliar adult or joining a new group of peers. It is possible, too, that they may just want to avoid focusing on the illness.
We encourage parents to seek to understand their teenager’s perspective and then give their teenager the opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings. For some parents, it helps to ask their teenager to meet with the Wonders & Worries Child Life staff member for only three sessions to determine if this type of support is even beneficial. We encourage you to trust your instincts. After all, the most important thing is your relationship with your child. If your teen still does not wish to receive direct support from Wonders & Worries, we can provide parenting support for your family and conduct consultations with other support people in your teen’s life.
What is a certified child life specialist and how is a Child Life specialist different from a licensed therapist?
Child life specialists are professionals trained to help children and their families understand and manage stressful health care experiences and challenging life events. Child Life specialists utilize play, recreation, education, and expressive activities to connect with children and teens. They are guided by theories of child development, and they help promote the psychological well-being of children who are faced with these stressful situations. Visit our Child Life Profession page to find out more about what a child life specialist does.
There are several common differences to a child life specialist’s approach, which differs from that of a therapist or guidance counselor:
- All children and teens can benefit from support. Child life specialists focus on prevention – an emotional or behavioral problem does not have to be identified for a child life specialist to work with a child or teen. The goal is to provide support to children and teens as early as possible so that they can cope positively.
- Play is important. Child life specialists use play and activity as their primary means of interacting with children and teens. A child or teen does not need to talk about their thoughts and feelings in order to receive support or benefit from their time with a child life specialist.
Child Life specialists can help parents recognize if their child or teen is in need of additional support. Their goal is to help children and teens continue on a normal developmental path in the midst of illness and stress.
How do I know if my child/teenager needs additional support outside of Wonders & Worries?
Our services focus on your child. At some point, you or your primary child life staff member may realize that your child has additional needs for support that are not directly related to the illness or exceed our expertise. Your primary child life staff member will talk with you about his or her assessment and recommendation. We will do our best to provide you with referral information when possible. With your permission, Wonders & Worries staff is happy to collaborate with other professionals in support of your child.
Some indicators that your child may need additional support include:
- your child or teen indicating verbally or otherwise that the illness is not a primary concern;
- your child or teen regularly focusing on other concerns and stressors unrelated to the illness during their sessions at Wonders & Worries;
- your child or teen begins to experience an increase in the frequency and intensity of emotional or behavioral problems, even with Wonders & Worries support in place.
What if a parent or caregiver would benefit from emotional support for himself/herself? Can Wonders & Worries help?
Wonders & Worries does not provide counseling support or therapy to parents or other adult family members. We do, however, encourage parents and caregivers to seek emotional support for themselves. We know that a parent’s or caregiver’s ability to cope has a strong impact on a child’s ability to cope. Your primary child life staff member is available to talk with you about your support needs and to help connect you with resources you need.
What’s the best way to connect with Wonders & Worries?
The best way to access support is to call 512-329-5757 in the Austin area or 210-307-4853 in the San Antonio Area. No referral is required. You can also refer a family through our online form. Medical professionals can fax a referral to 512-298-3607.