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Expert Guidance from Cancer Coach

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How To Talk With Children About Cancer

Cancer can flood you with tons of emotions. You may feel overwhelmed and stressed after the diagnosis. But cancer affects an individual and all those around that person. One of the most challenging tasks is to tell your family about it, especially the kids. You may find it challenging to share it with your children and want to keep it a secret. However, we all know a secret can stay a secret for so long. We will deal with the various difficult aspects of informing your kids here.

Why shouldn’t you hide from the kids?

If you are a parent, you may want to hide the truth from your children about cancer. Naturally, you might want to protect your kid from going through the same emotions that you might be dealing with. You may feel burdened with the diagnosis, going to treatment and all the sudden changes in your life. You may feel the best way to stay silent and seal your mouth. 

This may work for some time, but ultimately your kid will know that something is off. They start to suspect sooner than later. There are many ways by which your kid might get a clue. Kids are innately curious and will notice changes in their routine and mood. They can read the sad expressions on your face or hear something from your flying whispers. Apart from these, they can listen to the news from outside, a relative or a friend.

Being frank and open with the kids can help break the uncertainty wall. Otherwise, children have a vivid imagination which they can use to fill the gaps with answers far more problematic than the real ones. You may find it strange, but the children can cope with the news. Their understanding and reaction, however, depending on their age.

How will the kid understand cancer?

Every child’s understanding of cancer may vary. Age can be a significant factor in knowing how much they will understand. As a kid grows older and learns, they can learn about cancer from their friends or from local instances. But the person who would know how much your child will understand is none other than you. You better know how your child would react and take the news. We will discuss a rough idea of how children of different age groups may respond to cancer.

Infants(kids of age 0 to 3): The kids of this age are toddlers who won’t understand much about cancer. But you can tell them you are not well and need to take medicine to become well again.

Kids of age 3 to 5: These are preschool kids who might understand a little bit about cancer. You have to explain them in very simple words.

School-age kids:(5 to 12 years old): They can understand a lot more because they might be in touch with other kids and the media. They might even ask questions from you.

Teenagers(13 to 18 years old): They will understand not only cancer but also the diagnosis and treatment plans. Kids at this age may know many things about cancer. Hence they will ask a lot of questions. Still, they can have so many misinformations. You may need to talk to them to clear them.

When to tell your children about cancer

Some choose to tell their children right away without any delay. At the same time, others wait for some time before they inform their kids. But it is better to convey the information rather than bury it. It’s okay if you wait till the final results are out and you know about the treatment plan. You don’t have to give your kid every detail at a go. You can start by talking about your illness, like you are diagnosed with cancer. If you feel burdened, promise to speak about other details in the following conversation. But reassure them by telling them you don’t have all the information and that doctors are finding a way.

Prepare yourself and choose the proper timing

Before you tell your children, you have to prepare mentally to answer the difficult questions asked by your children. Your child may get hurt and become angry. So make sure that they are in a safe place when you tell them. Don’t tell them just before going to school or outside because it might be equally upsetting for them too. Choose the weekends instead. Also, give them some time to process the news.

How much should I tell them?

You might not have to tell your child every single detail. Don’t overflow them with information. Tell them bit by bit all the vital information they should know. Clear their doubts if they have. Keep your conversation open and talk about what is currently happening. How their lives might change and what they might have to do to overcome the problems. You shouldn’t burden them by discussing the future possibilities.

Caring for your child

Your child might be upset and angry, not knowing how to deal with the situation. They might constantly fear losing you even if you tell them that you will recover and the problem is not dire. They will need your support and care to go through this. Try to act normal and be there for them. It’s okay if you can’t. Just try to be honest and show that you love them. Start with spending time together doing things that you enjoy doing together. If you feel things are getting out of control, don’t hesitate to seek help from your family, friends, or a counsellor.





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