Talking to children about cancer: Including your kids in your care

Fifth of seven articles in a series on how to talk to your children about cancer.

When you are able to include your children in your cancer care, it helps them feel important and more connected to you.

Give them simple tasks to do

Kids often want to help in any way that they can, if just given the opportunity. Offer suggestions or allow them to find ways to help in your cancer journey.

Start by giving them age-appropriate tasks, such as bringing you a glass of water or a magazine, or getting you a blanket.

However, I would discourage you from asking your kids to remind you when it is time for your medications or from dispensing those medications to you. This can make the child feel responsible for your recovery and should a relapse occur, they may feel that they didn’t give you the medications correctly.

Let them accompany you to the doctor

Kids and teens may want to go with you to clinic or hospital visits. They may have questions that they want to ask the medical team themselves. This is completely appropriate, as long as they are prepared for the experience.

Don’t put too much pressure on them

While everyone usually has to take on some additional responsibilities when someone is sick, be careful not to add too many new things to your child’s usual responsibilities.

Avoid saying things like, “While your dad is away, you’ll be the man of the house,” or “While your mom isn’t feeling well, you need to take over the mom duties.” These sayings may seem harmless, but can unintentionally put added stress on your kids during an already difficult time.

Let your kids be kids

Remember to let your kids be kids. Tell them that it is okay to still have fun and do normal kid stuff like go to baseball games or birthday parties. This is actually something adults should remember as well.

Cancer is something you are dealing with, but it isn’t who you are. Find ways to cope more like kids do — have fun and laugh as much as possible.

This post was contributed by Cinda McDonald, a Certified Child Life specialist with the Supportive and Palliative care team at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas.

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Talking to children about cancer: Including your kids in your care