, Research Paper
Process Essay “Telling Your Children You Have Cancer”
Thousands of people every year find out they have cancer. Over half will have to go through some type of chemotherapy or radiation treatment. Both are extremely painful. Their appearance will change dramatically and their physical abilities will become limited. Just talking can and will become a chore. Although many physicians and specialist try to comfort and prepare each patient; it is those patients with children who find the whole experience tormenting. They fear for their children s future and how they will take the news. They re unsure of when and how to tell their children, especially those with younger children. Children who are of the ages of five and under. It is most difficult to explain to this age group because of their absence of understanding what it is they are being told. They have a limited vocabulary and lack the ability to grasp the seriousness of the situation. They do not understand that their parent maybe facing death. To them their parent is invincible. No one or thing could harm them. So it is up to their parent to explain everything in a way to where they will understand. Helping children five and under to understand their parents experience with cancer needs sensitivity and a good sense of timing. Children may go through the stages their parents are going through, disbelief, anger, reorganization, hope and acceptance. They may have special needs because of their ages. During their parents illness, their needs may change. Children have the right to know about anything that affects the family, as cancer does. Children know something is wrong. If they are not told anything in a way to protect them, they may have fears which are -Page 2- worse than the real situation. They may find out the truth from someone else, or get misleading information from TV or other sources. Not talking about cancer may suggest it is a subject too terrible to be discussed. There is a hopeful side and children need to know this. The first step a parent should take before telling their children is to find out all the information they can about the cancer they have been diagnosed with. What makes cancer especially difficult are the many unknowns. Living with uncertainty is part of having cancer. A parent needs to find out all they can to make the unknown familiar. In order to provide accurate information and to be honest with their children the parent needs to be knowledgeable of their cancer. This way when their children asks a question they will be able to answer it. There are some questions they will not be able to answer. They must accept that and help their children to accept that fact also. Once the parent knows all that they can about their cancer then the next step is to quickly set aside a time in a comfortable place to explain their illness. Many parents feel comfortable in thinking that time is in abundance. It is not. Children need to be told as soon as possible. They should be told after the parent has been diagnosed. Picking a time and place is very important. Time should be selected when their children are the most focused and likely to be home. The conversation should take place in a familiar comfortable room or area. Home would be the best selection. Many children consider home to be safe and secure. It is a non-threatening environment where they can feel free to open up when talking to their parent. -Page 3- The third and most important step is how the parent explains their illness to their children. Dealing with children under the age of five is extremely difficult. It must be dealt with great patience and compassion. At this age children may have to be told over and over again. They have a short attention span and a meager vocabulary level. The parent needs to be creative and talk in a language their children will understand. Children are good at noticing things but poor at understanding what they mean. For example, Pappy died in a hospital. Now Daddy has to go into a hospital. He is going to die. Or I was with Mommy when she told me to pick up my toys. Then she was ill. Maybe I made her ill. It is this way children think. Children under five believe the world revolves around them, they believe that when something is wrong, it s their fault. There is a tremendous need to explain in great detail to them the reasons as to why their parent has cancer. To let them know it has nothing to do with them and that they did not cause the disease. They should be told in small doses as the disease progress or digresses. They shouldn t be told that Mommy or Daddy is going to die unless that is the inevitable outcome. It saves the children from unnecessary grief and stress. The youngest children fear separation, strangers and being left alone. There are some dont s such as don t lie, don t trouble them with frightening medical details, money worries, test results that are not in yet, promises you may not be able to keep, and don t be afraid to say I don t know. Also a parent does not want to push their children to talk. This may cause them to turn away and keep emotions and feelings hidden. Children are having a difficult time trying to understand the situation and trying to deal with the idea of losing their parent. The -Page 4- less stress a parent puts on their children the more the children are able to cope with the situation. When a parent finds out they have cancer everyone in that family is affected. There may be changes in the parents appearance and there may be changes in what they are able to do. With the ability to know when and how to speak with their children, especially the younger ones, about the cancer they will be able to cope with this disease together and without the stress of hiding it as a dirty secret. Children have an amazing ability and capacity to deal with the truth. Even very sad truths will relieve the anxiety of too much uncertainty. Parents cannot stop them from feeling sad, but if they share their feelings and give them information about what is happening, they can offer them support in their sadness. Cancer is a serious and unfortunate disease that parents need to share with their children when they find out they are infected with it. Dealing with it early and openly can help a family prepare for the future.