Deciding if your child needs help can be confusing as parents try to sort out what is a “normal” response to a new cancer diagnosis, and what is not. This is new to all of you and it will take some time to figure out what works best for you and your family. But while you are learning for the first time how your children react to cancer, you already have experience with how they deal with other stressful events…
Parents probably cannot offer the kind of overall reassurance they would like to when they first learn they have cancer. This is because no one really knows at that point how they will respond to treatment and that everything will be okay.
The question, “Are you going to die?” causes the most distress for families. It is a good idea to rehearse how you are going to respond to this, either with someone else or just to yourself.
Some children may become very upset when learning about a new cancer diagnosis while others may act as if nothing is wrong. The goal is to give the child a balanced point of view. The child should realize that cancer is a serious, but not hopeless illness.
Tell the truth in such a way that children are able to understand and prepare themselves for the changes that will happen in the family. Kids thrive on routine; it helps them feel safe. When life becomes unpredictable they will need help in adjusting to the changes.
It is normal for families facing a new diagnosis of cancer to be upset and worried about this crisis. For families with young children, or teens, there is also the concern about how children will react to a diagnosis of cancer in a family member. Here we discuss how to help children understand and deal with a parent or close family member’s cancer diagnosis.