How wishes help

The long-lasting impact of a wish

For a child fighting a critical illness, life can often be filled with endless medical appointments, gruelling treatment and long periods of time in hospital away from their friends and family – a far-cry from the carefree childhood they should be enjoying. A wish changes this. A wish lets a child look past their condition and gives them hope for the future, it provides them with confidence and precious time with their family to create memories they can all treasure forever.

In 2018, we commissioned research with Aston University to understand the impact that a wish has on children, and their families, when living with a life-threatening condition.

A number of families were interviewed by the university and six key themes emerged around the positive impact of a wish. We’d like to share some of the highlights from this research.

Increased joy and happiness

Many families described feeling overcome with intensely positive, joyful emotions including happiness and excitement when hearing that the wish would be granted. The anticipation during the build-up to a wish often had positive effects on a child’s emotional wellbeing. Wishes were described as creating an environment where the child and family felt special, creating memories to last a lifetime.

“This will stick with us for the rest of our lives; it wasn’t just a day trip out. This was an experience that wowed and amazed her and her brother and sister.”
Wish child parent

“It felt like I was a celebrity.”
Wish child, 8 years old

“We talk about it all the time. All the time.”
Wish child parent

Broadening horizons

Families told us that the wish enabled them to aspire to more, getting involved in activities they might not have previously considered, such as going on a family holiday. Having a wish was described as life-changing by children and families as it encouraged them to reassess what would be possible in their future. Wish parents described the wish opening up a world of future possibilities, realising they were able to achieve more than they thought possible.

“She’s come back [from her wish] with such a positive outlook and it’s inspired her to think about being able to travel when she’s older.”
Wish child parent

“It more or less changed our outlook on life. There’s more to life than working your fingers to the bone and not seeing each other. It [the wish] made us re-evaluate, that’s why I handed my notice in at work.”
Wish child parent

“I think it [the wish] has made me notice more good things that can come out of my condition.”
Wish child, 14 years old

Building psychological resources

The research highlighted feelings of increased optimism, confidence and self-esteem in children as well as parents, following a wish, with more focus on what they CAN do and what is possible, rather than what they CANNOT do. Wish children described feeling more confident and having more courage following their wish, particularly regarding their health care.

“I definitely feel a lot more confident. Before we went I was thinking ‘No blood tests for me’ but now I think ‘Fine, that’s part of it.”
Wish child, 8 years old

“[on the wish] We couldn’t bring the wheelchair in, but he wasn’t going to be carried, he walked. He walked up two flights of stairs and down two flights of stairs to get to his seat…he was determined, he was going to walk to that seat.”
Wish child parent

“It’s given him a sense of independence. That he doesn’t need me or his dad there the whole time.”
Wish child parent

Distraction from illness and treatment

Families told us that wishes provided a welcome distraction and often motivated children to engage with their treatment. In difficult times, wishes provided a new focus and something to look forward to. After a wish, the happy, positive memories gave something to talk about rather than dwelling on their condition and treatment.

“At that moment in time, times were pretty tough. It [the wish] gave us something to keep going, something to look forward to, a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Wish child parent

“Every day he struggles having his feed, he’s attached to a feeding pump for a couple of hours every day. Knowing that he has got the wish to look forward to can distract him for some period of the time. It really helps in that way.”
Wish child parent

“Even now [my daughter] is still talking about it. She will talk about her favourite ride, meeting the princesses, even what she had for dessert that day”
Wish child parent

Respite from worry

Families described feeling consumed by worry about their child’s condition and the challenges of caring for a child living with a critical illness. For many, having a wish granted was their first experience of handing over responsibility for any aspect of their child’s care. Wishgranters take on responsibility for planning and organising the child’s wish, allowing parents to concentrate on being parents.

“You always have so much worry, looking after a child with special needs. So, having the basic things taken care of, I can just be a mum, be a parent to these children, and have that worry taken away.”
Wish child parent

“To get that trip of a lifetime, with all expenses paid, it definitely means a lot because after a cancer diagnosis, things changed financially.”
Wish child parent

Togetherness

Families valued spending quality time together while receiving their child’s wish. Wishes were found to have a positive impact on parental and family relationships, bringing spouses and families closer together. Wishes were described as bringing a sense of ‘normality’ for families. This quality time as a family was also viewed as important for siblings, as they often missed out on spending time with their parents.

“Families need bringing together, a reapplying of the social glue that you have, because when you’ve got a medical condition, it can be stretched somewhat.”
Wish child parent

“When we were away [on the wish], I felt we were just a normal, ordinary family, just like everyone else.”
Wish child parent

“When you have a child with additional needs a lot of the focus is on them, so it’s been great that the wish has been granted for us as a family. We can focus on enjoying time as a family and putting time aside to do quality things with our other son as well.”
Wish child parent