How to Explain Cancer to a Child
Cancer is a life-changing diagnosis, and it can be difficult for children to understand. They may not know how cancer will impact their lives or what's going on with the people close to them when they're diagnosed - but that doesn't mean you shouldn't talk about your experiences as often as possible.
While it may be easy to want to keep your child in the dark about a cancer diagnosis, don't underestimate their ability to handle this difficult news. Children are often quick-to blame themselves for bad situations and sometimes create scenarios that are worse than reality can bring on anxiety or fear.
Some children might worry that another family member is going away forever if they do not have an explanation as soon as possible after receiving such sudden information; some kids also feel like they must "take care of" parents who suddenly become ill and spend more time at home with them during recovery instead of pursuing other activities
As a parent, your most important job is to help your child understand cancer. No matter the outcome, you want them to cope with it and be calm during hard times. Reassure them constantly when discussing this scary topic so they know that everything will turn out okay in the end.
1. Determine What You Want to Say
The last thing you want to do when having a difficult conversation with your child is be unprepared. You should prepare what you'll say and how things will go, especially if it's something that might make the situation emotional for both of you. If this isn't possible because time is running out or other factors are affecting the timing, at least try to have an idea in mind about what actions need to take place so nothing gets lost as far as communicating goes between parent/guardian and child
You can push through difficult conversations by practicing what you need to say beforehand. Say the words out loud and feel your emotions swell, so that when it's time for in-person conversation, your body is ready.
2. Be Honest
It's easy to avoid telling the truth about cancer because it can be scary, but don't. Resist the temptation or you will have your child find out what cancer is from friends, other family members, and even worse-the internet! If this backfires on you by making them feel misled with lost trust in their parents then there was no reason for not being honest when they first asked questions.
If you want to start on the right foot, be honest with your child about difficult news. That way they'll feel
3. Keep the Discussion Open
A conversation about cancer isn't over after you break the news. Consider it just a first step to an ongoing discussion with your child, keeping them updated on what their loved one is going through and how they are doing in treatment.
When you go on long stretches without talking about your loved one, your child may wonder if they've died and are being hidden. Make sure to talk openly with them so that these concerns do not arise.
No matter the situation, you can always make sure your child knows they're loved. You might not feel comfortable talking about cancer all of the time but that's okay! Talk to them about their favorite foods, hobbies or work instead and just be available when needed.
4. Encourage Questioning
Depending on their personality, some kids may be hesitant about speaking up when they have questions. They might not know what to ask or are afraid of the answer. Others tend to feel shy and self-conscious talking with adults in authority positions such as doctors or nurses because it’s uncomfortable for them
Ask your child what they are most comfortable talking about. They may be nervous to start, but if you show them that it is okay for the two of you to talk openly and honestly, then eventually they will open up with other topics as well.
Think about how your child is feeling. If they don't say much, ask yes or no questions like "Does Mom's cancer make you feel sad?" and “Do you feel worried?” Read stories aloud with them to help bring up this topic. Look for opportunities in their play where the subject can be brought up as well!
5. You Don’t Have All the Answers – Admit It
Even though it can be scary to not have all the answers, that's okay. You won't understand everything ahead of time because this is such a long story with many twists and turns along the way. Let your child know you are going on this journey together as you learn new things each day or week about cancer treatments for them!
When you have questions or don't understand something, it's important to reach out and talk with doctors, nurses, and other helpful people. When your child is facing a tough situation like cancer treatment , their medical team can help them feel better by answering any of their concerns or queries that they might be having. Furthermore resources such as websites pamphlets printed pamphlets with facts information are also available for children who want more knowledge on the topic .
6. Consider the age of the Child
A child's vocabulary and understanding of the bigger picture help determine how they respond to cancer. Age guidelines can be helpful, but you know your own children best!
Once your child has a better understanding of cancer, conversations will be easier. Use these phrases often so that they can develop their own use for them:
"Terminal illness:" this means the disease is not curable and cannot go away on its own; treatments are used to help with symptoms or prolong survival.
"Chemotherapy treatment:" This helps destroy tumor cells by getting rid of medicine into the bloodstream where it travels throughout the body until it reaches all areas affected by tumors. The healthy parts of our bodies take what they need while leaving behind chemo which kills off more bad stuff in other places like bones marrow & blood stream (this is why children get very sick). Chemotherapy also reduces blood cell production in bone marrow causing low
In order to help children from different stages of development, it is important to stay aware of what they understand.
7. Assure Your Child They Can’t Catch Cancer
Younger children may not understand how cancer develops and believe it is like a common childhood illness. They know that someone can catch a cold by being close to them when they are sick, so even as young as 4 or 5 years old, they have an understanding of what causes the condition.
You may need to repeat this message, especially if you don’t see your loved one with cancer often. These young kids may mistakenly assume that they can catch or spread cancer to someone in the same way. Explain how cancer works using simple terms and assure them that they can't catch it like a cold because different types of cancers work differently and have no relation between each other as far as catching is concerned.
8. Use Children’s Books
Children's books about cancer can increase understanding and provide inspiration with life-altering illness.
Even though these tips are helpful, it may still be difficult to find the right words for your child when talking about their diagnosis or prognosis. Children’s books that describe how cancer works and address children's fears make a positive impact on them through illustration while teaching them various lessons in dealing with this challenging situation.
9. Showing Emotion is OK
You might feel like it's better to look strong for your child rather than breaking down in tears. Parents often want to protect their children and avoid upsetting them, but showing signs of emotional pain is normal even when someone you love has a serious illness.
Children may feel anxious and confused about their feelings. They might be ashamed to express them, especially if others around aren't showing much emotion. As you speak with your child or cry in front of them, they will learn it's normal for everyone to do so as well.
You can't take away their pain, but you can help them cope with it. Talk about your feelings and encourage the same from them. Continue to read children's books about cancer with them, especially ones that focus on emotions such as 'The Goodbye Book'. In general, make sure they know you are there for when they feel too overwhelmed by their emotions.
A primary source for material used in this article is from Joincake.com
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Steve Schafer is the founder of TheEulogyWriters and the author of hundreds of heartfelt, wonderful eulogies. He lives in Michigan and has been writing eulogies for well over thirty years. The articles in this blog are designed to help people through the process of losing loved ones and exploring issues in the aging process.
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