Having conversations with children about cancer treatment can be difficult, particularly when you are trying to cope with your own emotions about the diagnosis of a loved one. What to say varies depending on many factors, including the youth’s personality. Here are tips to guide the dialogue.
Being Open about Treatment
It is hard to keep a cancer diagnosis and treatment a secret from anyone, including kids. If they find out about it from someone other than you as the mom or dad, they may feel betrayed.
You may lose trust in the parent-child relationship. And that is tough to gain back once it is lost.
Thus, if you are wondering whether to tell the kids that their aunt, grandfather, or another relative is sick, the answer is typically “yes.” Then you are there for your child in the future as a resource whenever they have questions or when they feel sad or scared and want reassurance.
Having a Private Conversation
To have this talk, you might want to be alone with your child so that you can explain things using vocabulary and pace that they are comfortable with, given their age and competency. Plus, they are more likely to ask questions when they are not worrying about what their peers think or of being judged by others in the room.
In a two-parent family, try to speak to the child together so that you can answer questions between the two of you. If one isn’t sure what to answer, then the other parent can jump in.
Also, you will then both have a good understanding of the child’s emotions and how to navigate conversations after this first one if you’re in the room together. Finally, the youngster will feel reassured that they have both of you for support as they digest this tough news.
When to Have the Talk
As for when to have the dialogue, it is best to do so when you are feeling calm and in control of your emotions. If you are upset about the family member, then wait until you feel stronger to tell your child.
It can be scary for them to see you in a vulnerable position, especially if they haven’t seen you this way before. The news is unexpected and accompanying it with your tears is a tough combo for anyone, let alone a kid.
Planning for the Conversation
When possible, plan what you will say to your son or daughter before speaking with them about the cancer update. Also, think about what questions they are likely to ask, such as what is involved in the cancer treatment.
Brainstorm how you will answer them if they ask those things. Prepping yourself, in these ways, helps prevent you from being thrown an unexpected question and not being sure how to answer it.
Final Words on Talking about Cancer with Kids
When the time for the conversation comes, ensure you and your spouse, if you have one, make it clear that open, honest dialogue is what you want to have with the young boy or girl. Tell them that they can come to you at any time with their worries, fears, and other emotions.
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