Your children can usually tell when something is bothering you. As a parent, you want to protect your children-- but for them, sensing that something is wrong and not being able to talk to you about it, often causes a great deal of fear and worry. Talking to your children at a level that is right for their ages and personalities can help make both you and your children feel a greater sense of control during this difficult time. Have faith in your children’s ability to handle the news. Being truthful with your children will give them a better understanding of what you're going through and will give them the opportunity to share their feelings and concerns.
Some factors you may want to consider to help you talk with your child about your cancer are:
- Use words and ideas that are age-appropriate. Provide your child with information at a level that matches his or her ability to understand. You may need to give your child information more than once. If you have children of varying ages, you may need to approach the subject differently for each child.
- Use your child’s questions as a guide to what he or she wants to know. Consider your child’s style of coping. Preferences about the amount of information children want varies.
- Encourage your child to talk about his or her fears and concerns. Children may have fears or concerns that hadn't crossed your mind. Let your child know it is okay to be open with you and encourage her or him to get information directly from you.
- Ask someone else to do the talking. There may be times when you feel it would be best for your child to talk with someone other than you. This could be another family member, friend, religious or spiritual advisor or a healthcare professional. A doctor, psychologist, nurse, social worker and/or a child life specialist on your healthcare team may be able to help you find the right words to talk to your child or you may want them to interact directly with your child.
- Remind your child of how much you love them. Explain that even if you're feeling cranky or tired, you still love them and always will. Take the opportunity to acknowledge and praise your child when he or she is doing things that are difficult.
Talk it out. No matter how much you prepare for the conversation, you may still have questions. If you're having trouble deciding how or if to tell your children, your healthcare team may be able to give you advice. You can also contact The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) chapter in your area or an LLS Information Specialist (800-955-4572). Visit the LLS Blood Cancer Discussion Boards to speak with other parents. In addition visit www.lls.org to review our vast information for patients and caregivers, and contact national and local offices for additional support.