Remember, this talk is the first of many more conversations about your cancer. As time goes on, it’s very important to make sure that you and your child keep talking about what’s going on.
Make talking with your child a priority.
Tell your child to keep asking questions.
It’s very important that your child continues to come to you with questions about whatever is on his mind. Children, especially teenagers, may need permission to ask questions.
Keep in mind that your child may hear things about your illness from other people. He also may find information about cancer on the Internet. Make sure you talk with him about other things he may be hearing. This can help you learn more together.
Set aside times to talk.
Set aside a special time to talk with your child. You can do this every day or once every week — whatever works best for you and your child. This will send the positive message that you want her to continue to share her thoughts and feelings.
Remember that sometimes your child may not want to talk about your cancer, but spending some time with you will still help reassure her.
Jeanneen & Roxanne
Ask about your child’s feelings.
Ask specific questions about what your child is feeling. You can say, “What is it like for you when so much of my energy is going to treatment these days?”
When your child shares his feelings, ask him what he does to handle them. For example, “When you are feeling sad (or scared or worried), what do you do to cope with this feeling?”
Try not to ask short, vague questions like:
- “What’s new?“
- “How are you?”
Encourage your child to keep talking to others.
Studies show that children of cancer patients feel that getting support from other people in their lives is important.
Your children may feel less isolated if you encourage them to talk to someone they feel comfortable with. This could include friends, teachers, a relative, or a member of the clergy.
Children often try to protect their parents from the feelings they are having. Don’t take it personally if you aren’t the person your child feels most comfortable talking to, especially if she’s worried about you.
Marianne & Elles
Help your child understand your cancer and treatment.
Ask your child questions to see what he thinks is happening — and how much he understands.
It’s easy to assume that your child understands your cancer and treatment after you talk about it. But some kids, especially younger ones, may act like they know what's happening without really understanding the details.
You can check in by asking questions like:
- “Can you tell me what you understand about my cancer?”
- “Can you tell me what you understand about why I need to go to the doctor or to the hospital?”
- “What do you think happens when I go to the doctor or to the hospital?”
- “What do you think it means to have cancer?”
Keep your child up-to-date on your treatment.
Some kids, especially if they are older, may find it comforting to be involved in their parent’s treatment plan. They may want regular updates on how treatment is going.
This is a personal decision, and it will depend on how you feel your child will handle it.
Joseph & Kendra
Terri & Ben
Keep tabs on your own feelings.
As you go through treatment you may feel like withdrawing from the world. Keep tabs on your own feelings and get support if you need it. For example, if you are feeling depressed, talk to your doctor about what types of treatment are available to you.
Remember, how you deal with your own feelings can have a big impact on how other family members cope with your cancer.
Look for signs of depression.
People who are depressed may not all have the same symptoms, so it can be hard to know for sure if you or one of your family members is dealing with depression. The symptoms of depression can vary a lot in terms of how serious they are or how long they last.
Some of the most common symptoms of depression include feeling:
- Irritable or restless
Some of these feelings may be normal when you are dealing with cancer. But if you find that the feelings don’t go away, it may be something more serious. Other signs of depression may include:
- Being unable to do your usual activities or hobbies
- Feeling tired or having no energy
- Having problems focusing, remembering details, or making decisions
- Changes in your sleep, such as not being able to sleep, waking up very early, or sleeping much longer than you usually do
- Changes in your appetite (eating more or less)
- Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or problems digesting that don’t go away with treatment
- Thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts
If you notice any of these things in yourself or your child, talk to the doctor right away.