When your loved one is diagnosed with cancer, you likely feel as though you are in a state of shock. You are sad, angry, worried, and a myriad of other emotions that are difficult to juggle and deal with. However, when you have young children, you also have to deal with the unfortunate task of explaining the situation to them as well. While such a conversation will not be easy, there are certain steps you can take to help you and your children get through this difficult time and rally around your loved one to provide love and support in their time of need.
Use Age Appropriate Language And Descriptions
When you talk to younger children about illnesses and diseases, it is often difficult to get them to understand very adult and precise topics and terminology. Cancer is particularly tricky as it is not caused by a germ or bug that children easily picture and comprehend.
With young children, try to keep it simple. Do not use terms like "leukemia," "lymphoma," or "oncology" to describe the cancer or the treatments. Instead tell them that their loved one has something growing inside of them that is making them sick and the doctors need to stop it from growing by taking it out or giving their loved one medicine to stop the growth and shrink it.
These terms and concepts are easier for young children to understand and the prospect will be less frightening because they have a basic understanding of what is happening to their loved one. If your children have further questions, try to continue to use language that is simple and straightforward as much as possible.
See A Counselor Or Therapist As A Family
Although your children are quite young, they are also in-tune to your emotions and feelings. They can sense that a cancer diagnosis is more serious and worrisome than a cold or the flu by the way you react emotionally to the news, and they usually follow suit.
When a family member is diagnosed with cancer (particularly if it is in advanced stages or is terminal), it is often helpful to see a counselor or therapist to sort through your feelings and emotions, as well as to develop appropriate coping mechanisms. Your children can benefit from this too. Providing them with an open forum to vent and to hear suggestions for handling their feelings will make them feel safe and accepted, helping them to deal with such difficult circumstances.
When your loved one is diagnosed with cancer, it is a difficult time for you and your family. Breaking bad news to your young children is never easy. However, with these basic guidelines the process will go smoother and will allow you and your children to handle the situation as well as possible.