#BloodCancerAwarenessMonth Q&A: "Is my child old enough to know Mommy has cancer?"

Over the years, I've received thousands of emails about Bald in the Land of Big Hair, a memoir about my experience with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. A cancer diagnosis brings a firestorm of questions, and as a survivor, I can sympathize, but I'm not an expert; many times I just don't have the answers. So this year during Blood Cancer Awareness Month, I've asked Ashley Rodgers (Masters in Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling), to respond to some FAQs about the emotional and psychological aspects of the cancer journey. 

Q: At what age is a child old enough to be told that a parent has cancer?

Ashley says: Cancer can be a scary word, even for adults, but communication in relationships is necessary at any age. Children generally know when something is going on, even when they do not know specifically. It is better to communicate what is happening, otherwise children typically will blame themselves for the tension. The key is to talk with your child in a way that is age appropriate.

Young children who have never experienced sickness or loss might not understand the depth of the concept. In this case, it is best to start the conversation in general and abstract ways. Talk about how you are feeling and what it means for your child. For example, perhaps treatments are resulting in lack of energy, irritability, or memory loss. Explain that sometimes when you are not feeling well, these things happen but that it is because of your medicine and not because they did something wrong or that you are not interested. This will help them understand in a way and not lay blame on themselves.

Older children have cognitively developed further and are able to understand what cancer is and how it can be scary. But with knowledge and understanding, comes comfort in knowing what to expect. Older children and adolescents want to be treated with respect and they know when something is being kept from them. Instead of reinforcing rebellion by protecting them from the news, invite closeness with conversation. Tell them what is happening to you, and what the options are down the road through treatment and further. Allow them to receive and process the information. Be available for them and ready for their questions. If you do not know the answers, tell them you will find out together.

When it comes down to it, any age is old enough. Just talk with them. No one knows your children better than you do. You know what they can handle and in what amount.

For more resources on how to talk to your kids check out: Straight Talk to Kids on the NYU Cancer Institute website.

We welcome your questions and comments.

*No part of this blog or the book Bald in the Land of Big Hair should be misconstrued as or substituted for medical advice.

Popular Posts

Do not compromise, for only the valiant can create. ~ Frank Capra

Browse by topic...

#Alzheimers #BloodCancerAwarenessMonth #dementia #howilibrary #MothersDay #sxsw #yougottohavefriends alternative cancer treatment Amazon American Cancer Society anger art ask ashley astroid galaxy tour autotune Bald in the Land of Big Hair bee gees bernie blood cancer Blood Cancer Awareness Month blue mercy blues brothers book review boxer rebellion cancer carnet de voyage CASUAL VACANCY cat stevens chemo brain chemotherapy chevy ssr City of Dark Magic climate change coping with cancer craig thompson Crazy for Trying crazy on you dave brubeck declaration of independence deep cotton did you feel like going like that dinah washington Django rheinhardt Dune dwight okita earth to joni english Enough About Me environment erica jong europe family far enough from heaven farewell summer fear of flying feminism First You Write free book gabby gifford garden of your mind ghostwriting gloria estefan gloria gaynor go with god gore vidal gotta get a message to you graphic novel grateful dead great words hanging by a thread happy holidays have a listen heart HIPPIE BOY homeopathic care hunger games hurricane isaac I feel better now I'll Have What She's Reading I'm So Effing 50 IFTTT iggy pop indie love Indie Pub Adventure Ingrid Ricks Instagram J.A. Konrath James Joyce jeff zaslow JK Rowling Joni's List just sayin kenton nelson kickstarter kill smartie breedlove kindle freebie lead zep League of Extraordinary Authors led zeppelin legitimate rape Leukemia Lymphoma Society life life in general lisa hamilton literary fiction love love and other natural disasters lymphoma Lymphoma Reasearch Foundation Magnus Flyte mavis staples memoir Merry Christmas most awesome thing ever mother daughter movie mr. rogers Music My Memories of a Future Life mystery Nancy G Brinker nerdgasm nina simone non sequitur nora ephron orna ross Orts and Excerpts parenting with cancer people being people photobomb Planned Parenthood poetry politics Promise Me prospect of my arrival publishing news random loveliness ray bradbury red cross Relay for Life remix research rabbit holes richard III richard linklater robin gibb Roz Morris sex shakespeare slide whistle social support Something Awful stairway to heaven stella link books stella's umbrella Sugarland survivorship Susan G Komen for the Cure sxsw sylvia plath that explains a lot The Book Biz The Hurricane Lover the last lecture The Secret Sisters theme song du jour todd akin Trailer Park travel unfairly awesome waking life william Gay woo woo writing craft yeats you've got mail