Children & Teen facing cancer in a loved one

By: Erin Rafter

Most common concerns of children who have cancer in their family:

  • Did I cause this?
  • Will I, or someone I love, catch this?
  • How will my life be affected?

Simple suggestions for talking to children

  • Ask open-ended questions
  • Always check out what children are thinking or guessing, prior to giving information
  • Base all information on the child's coping abilities and let the child tell you how much he/she wants to know
  • End all discussions with something positive, or a way to enhance coping
  • Let children know that any discussions are okay and that the communication doors are open

To manage a parent's cancer, children need

  • Education: especially about the visible, unfamiliar aspects of the situation
  • Preparation: one step at a time, as events occur, stressing both facts and feelings
  • Opportunities to Express Emotions: expect wide variation, it's okay to see adult reactions
  • Support and Guidance: provide choices and clear boundaries, maintain expectations

Problems which may require professional referral

  • School performance declines
  • Unrelenting expressions of guilt
  • Loss of interest in interacting with others
  • A serious problem between the child and the sick adult
  • Emotional or behavioral changes become pervasive
  • Delinquent or aggressive behavior begins or persists
  • Drug or alcohol use is initiated
  • Suicide is threatened or attempted

If you would like to connect with The Gathering Place about your Children & Teen facing cancer in a loved one, please reach out to:

Erin Rafter, PhD, CCLS
Interim Director of Children & Family Programs

rafter@touchedbycancer.org
216-455-1516