YSC 15th Anniversary Lists - May 2013
After being diagnosed with breast cancer, one of the first things young mothers think about is their children. Helpful tips for talking with children of all ages can be found in YSC’s Fact Sheet “Helping Children Cope with Breast Cancer” and “Talking to Young Children” from breastcancer.org.
Check back on the 15th of each month to see 15 new facts or tips! Read more about our 15th anniversary lists here.
15 Tips To Help Children Cope
with Breast Cancer
Plan the conversation in advance.
Plan what you are going to say and how you are going to say it. Consider practicing in the mirror. Know your child’s prior knowledge and experiences with cancer (e.g., grandparent who passed away due to cancer) and be prepared for tough questions that may arise.
Provide age-appropriate information.
Younger children will not understand cancer-related terms like chemotherapy and radiation, while older children may need and want these details. Don’t be surprised if teenagers talk to their friends rather than you.
Let children's questions guide the rest of the conversation to help prevent them being overwhelmed with information.
Keep communication lines open.
After you tell your children about your diagnosis and treatment, check in and keep lines of communication open. Tell them it’s okay if they don’t have anything to say, but let them know that you will check in with them on a regular basis.
Naming the illness is important. Say cancer — it should be out in the open. This helps prevent children from creating ideas of something much worse than reality or magical thinking (e.g., "If I am good, Mommy will get better.").
Explain how cancer treatment will affect you.
Tell children how treatment for cancer will affect you. Prepare them for potential side effects of treatment, such as hair loss due to chemotherapy and feeling sick or tired at times.
Set a positive tone without making promises.
Use a calm, reassuring voice, even if you become sad.
Reassure children that their needs will be met.
Since you may not always be able to care for them during treatment, tell them about the trusted friends, relatives or others who will help out until you feel strong again.
Make it clear it's not their fault.
Make sure children know that the cancer is not their fault.
Tell them cancer is not contagious.
Children may be worried that they can catch cancer and should be reassured that cancer does not spread from person to person like a cold.
Keep usual routines in place.
Maintain normal schedules and structure. This will create a sense of safety and reassurance for your children better than giving them special privileges or treats.
Enjoy time when cancer isn't the main focus.
Restrict phone calls and visits during meals or around bed time, so that you can focus on the children instead.
Let teachers, school counselors, coaches and other caregivers know what is going on. They can help you know how your child is doing and can become a source of support.
Be prepared for regression.
Regression or backsliding to an earlier development phase is common for kids under stress. Teenagers may “act out.” If you notice that your child still isn’t him or herself after two to three weeks, then it may be time to talk with a counselor or pediatrician.
Encourage other forms of expression.
Provide opportunities for children to express their feelings such as talking, art, dance, music, journaling or playing. Many local communities have programs for children whose parents are undergoing cancer treatment.
Did You Know?
In 2006, YSC partnered with Dr. Cynthia Moore to create the "Talking with Children about Breast Cancer" resource to help parents discuss the topic. In 2011, it was updated and retitled “Helping Children Cope with Breast Cancer.”
In 2013, Young Survival Coalition celebrates 15 years of supporting women 40 and under affected by breast cancer. In the tradition of its founders, YSC pioneers research, information about treatment options and helps with the challenges and frustrations young women face when diagnosed. As the first organization to recognize these needs, YSC will be highlighting its accomplishments as well as the cancer community’s each month in a new "15 Facts" or "15 Tips" list. Please check back each month to learn something new.