Video:How to Talk to Kids About Cancer in Parentswith Sandy Lipkus
This video offers some practical suggestions as well as recommends some books and websites that you can use when talking to your children in a difficult situation--when a parent is diagnosed with cancer.See Transcript
Transcript:How to Talk to Kids About Cancer in Parents
Hi, I'm Sandy Lipkus from Hope and Cope at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, Canada for About.com. I co-ordinate a programme called En Famille which helps cancer patients talk to their children about their parents' illness. I'm here today to give you some practical suggestions as well as recommend some books and websites that you can use when talking to your children.
Be Honest When Telling Children About Illness
Be honest. Don't be afraid to tell your child what's happening to you and answer their questions as honestly as possible. You don't want your child to find out that you have cancer from another source. Although you may want to tell your child that everything is going to be OK, you need to be careful. You may want to say something like, "Daddy's OK right now and if anything changes you'll be the first to know." I recommend the book, When a Parent is Sick, by Joan Hamilton. Use age appropriate terms when talking to your children that they will understand. You may want to take a different approach for preschoolers, elementary schoolchildren and teens.
When explaining chemotherapy to a young child you may want to say something like, "Mommy is getting some special medicine that's going to make her get well. This is called chemotherapy and it's going to make me feel sick at the beginning but once I'm finished I will feel much better and I'll be back ot my old self." I recommend two very good books. Our Mom has Cancer by Abigail and Adrienne Ackermann and When Daddy Got Sick by Eric Gralnick.
Answer Their Questions and Address Concerns
Address your child's worries and concerns. Younger children sometimes think the cancer is their fault and they feel guilty. Teens my be embarrassed to talk about this with their friends. Stress the importance of bringing their questions to you. I recommend these two books by the National Cancer Institute. (These books are especially good for teens.) When Your Parent Has Cancer - A Guide for Teens and the other is Keeping a Journal. I also recommend Becky and the Worry Cup by Wendy S Harpham.
Accept Help from Friends and Family
Try to keep things as normal as possible. A sick parent may not be able to drive their kids to school or activities, or play and read with them. It's hard to ask for help, but remember it's only temporary so accept any help that is offered. Two very good interactive books are When Somebody has a Very Serious Illness by Marge Heegaard and Life isn't Always a Day at the Beach by Pam Ganz.
One thing that parents often forget to do is to notify the school that there is an illness in the family. Don't forget to tell your child's teacher or coaches or anyone involved in your child's life.
How to Tell Your Child if Cancer is Terminal
You may need to know how to talk to your child if the cancer is terminal. I would advise you to talk to other family members and plan a strategy together and find a way to talk to your children. This is a wonderful book. It's a diary written by a young child called My Mom is Dying by Jill Westberg McNamara.
Utilize Support Groups
Investigate local support groups in your area. Your child will meet other kids who have a cancer diagnosis in their family and they will see that they are not alone. I recommend four websites that would be really helpful for you to use for children of all ages: cancerreally sucks.org, kidscope.org, kidskonnected.org and enfamille-jgh.com.
Thanks for watching. To learn more visit us on the web at About.com.