to anyone about having breast cancer can be difficult - even for the
gifted public speakers among us. Not a popular topic for research,
telling your kids about your cancer is about the hardest discussion
any parent can imagine.
faced with their own breast cancer need help in deciding how much
to say, when to say it, and how to make sure that the message gets
through in a healthy way.
The little research that has been done on the issue of discussing
cancer diagnoses with children suggests that it is a very good thing
to do. When a family member gets cancer, children sense that something
is wrong, even if they don't know what it is. Children know when their
parents are upset. They have the same reactions as adults to whispers
or conversations stopping suddenly when they enter the room. If you
keep things from them, your children will probably think that things
are worse than they really are.
What Did I Do?"
A child whose family is disrupted by cancer may feel that they caused
the sickness in some mysterious way. Did not finishing supper or giving
Mom a hard time about cleaning the room make her sick? Most children
believe in superstitious reasoning. Doing bad things creates a reason
to get some sort of punishment. What about the last fight when mean
things were said, did someone hear those words and this bad thing
is meant as a punishment?
reasoning that the cancer patient and the rest of the family uses
is taking place. You ask, "Why me?" Your family struggles to
answer why my spouse, my child, or my sibling. Hopefully, on an adult
level most of us realise that this is not a punishment. But, honestly,
how often has the question, "What did I do to deserve this?" run through
Cancer Institute Guide for children, When
Someone in Your Family Has Cancer, quotes
a young boy whose mom has cancer, "'I left my junk
all over the floor one night instead of putting it away, and the next
morning, mom fell over it. She was mad and had a lot of bruises. A
little later, the doctor told her she had cancer. She's in the hospital
now. Maybe if she hadn't fallen down because of me, she'd be okay.'
Tom, age 11."
The Door Open
Talking about cancer lowers children's anxiety level and lets them
know that whatever is upsetting the family dynamic -- it isn't them.
Children need an introduction to voicing these fears. Avoiding discussion
closes an outlet that a child whose parent is ill desperately needs.
to them, with words they can understand, is always better than hiding
it. Talking about this problem, like any other, improves family communications.
It lets children know that they are not the cause of this painful
occurance. It keeps the children in the inner circle and lets them
know that you trust them with important family matters.
The Light On The Beast
Help them face the scary monster - this time it isn't in the dark,
the closet, or under the bed. The way to scare off this one is to
make it a sickness - children understand being sick. Cancer is a very
bad sickness, but a very treatable one. Discuss the disease and the
treatments in language that they can understand. You will be tired,
you will be sore, you might even be a little cranky because of the
disease and the treatments. You may be surprised to find that putting
your child's fears to rest helps you to feel much better able to face
your own fears.