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Talking to children about cancer: Keeping your kids informed

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

“I’ve just started chemo and will be losing my hair soon. How should I prepare the kids?” This is a common question I hear from parent patients as they begin cancer treatment.

When kids are prepared for expected hospital stays, physical changes, mood changes and treatment plans, they are able to cope very well. Just as it is for adults, kids need information to help them feel a little more in control, even in a chaotic situation.

Tell them what to expect

We all cope better when given information, even when it’s not the kind of information we would like to hear.

It is important to remember that for kids, the world revolves around them. Try to let them know how their world will be affected.

Keep their usual routines

Work to keep your child’s routines and schedules as normal as possible. Inform them when there will be changes in their routine, household, environment and caregivers, but also let them know when you expect things to be just what they are used to.

Predictability allows for a sense of security during uncertain times.

Use a calendar

It might be helpful to use a calendar to mark all planned medical events and changes in your family schedules. But be sure to also include family time or outings on the calendar. Let them know that your family can still enjoy ‘cancer-free’ time together, even if it is just for a meal or a trip to the park.

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: Keeping your kids informed