Many parents want to protect their children by not telling them any information they think might be frightening. In truth, the world is scarier for children when they do not know what is happening to and around them.
Often parents have a hard time telling their child about cancer. From years of experience, we know that not telling your child the truth can be harmful.
Parents should consider their child's age when choosing the words that are used to talk about what cancer is and how it is treated. The social workers, doctors, nurses, and child life specialist at the hospital can help you find ways to explain the diagnosis and treatment. The child life specialist may use coloring books, teaching dolls, medical play items, and other materials to help your child understand. Keep in mind that children learn from doing, seeing and hearing things over and over. You may need to tell your child about cancer more than once. As children grow older, they may need and want to know more about their cancer and treatment.
As with any child with cancer we encourage you to try to maintain as much “normalcy” as possible for your child.
A cancer diagnosis during adolescence is unique in that, just when young people naturally start to foster their identity and independence, a cancer diagnosis causes them to once again become very dependent upon their parents. Many teens have described that it is frustrating to lose the independence they have worked so hard to achieve. Parents also say that it’s challenging to balance their need as parents to protect their child, while also allow their child to maintain their normal development in eventually becoming self-sufficient. If you are having trouble communicating with your child or they are struggling, please ask a staff member for help.