Cancer And The Family
Tips to Help Children Cope
cancer will affect millions of families. For families with young children,
such devastating news can leave children feeling frightened or confused.
People Living With Cancer, the patient Web site of the American Society of
Clinical Oncology, www.PLWC.org, offers practical advice on how to talk with
children and teens about cancer. Here are a few tips to consider when
talking to elementary school children.
Help Children Feel Safe
Most children first experience sickness when they get a cold and are
used to hearing adults say they "caught" someone else's sore throat or
flu. It is important to explain to children that cancer is not
contagious. Assure them that they are safe.
Let children know that all questions are welcome, even if they cannot be
answered right away. For children, the amount of information given to
them is usually less important than making them feel comfortable with
what is being said.
The younger children are, the more they think the world revolves around
them, and the more likely they are to feel responsible for a parent or
sibling's illness. It is important to assure them by saying that nothing
they or anyone else did caused the cancer.
Help Children Understand Treatment
Children often fear the unknown. Explain the treatment process in a way
that is appropriate for their age. Don't forget that children may
confuse the side effects of treatment with symptoms or signs of the
cancer itself. Chemotherapy may be interpreted as being bad because it
makes a parent ill. Separating the side effects of treatment from the
disease itself may also provide some comfort.
No family should have to face cancer alone. Fortunately, there are many
emotional support resources available. Specially trained counselors can
help parents discuss cancer with their children. A listing of support
organizations that can provide information and assistance can also be
found on www.PLWC.org. Be sure to ask
your doctor or nurse to tell you about specific resources available for
children at your medical center.
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