How do you answer your children’s questions about your illness?
Children under 6 years old cannot fully grasp what cancer means, so you have to break it down to their level of understanding. “Start by asking the child if he remembers how it feels like when he is sick. Then he may be able to relate that when a person is sick, sometimes he is uncomfortable or grouchy or in pain,” says Veronica Mendoza, psychologist and community based rehabilitation adviser.
What if he asks you how sick you are?
Children may be able to understand the concept or degree of pain as long as you relate it to their own experiences like when they fell down and hurt their arm or when they had a cut or a bruise.Sometimes, they may see you cry when the pain is too strong. “It is important to emphasize that, with cancer, one is not necessarily always in pain so one can be sick and can still have ‘good days’ when the pain is bearable,” Mendoza explains.
What if you’re home after a treatment and your child asks you where you’ve been?
“It is best to tell the child what it means exactly: going to the hospital, needing to take lots of pills, or injecting something to oneself, etc.,” says Mendoza. Explain, too, that children are not allowed during treatment.
What if you are not getting better?
Preparing a child for the eventual death of his parent is never easy. There is no one single way to go about it. Mendoza says, “You may need to take your cue from the child. Some kids, no matter how young, may get a certain sense of it. Watch for clues that will tell you your child is ready for that talk.” You can relate it to when your child lost a pet, focusing on the feeling of losing someone dear to you. “Say that the pain and loneliness will be so much that you will cry but that those strong feelings will go away later and you will remember the good and fun times,” she adds.
Other helpful articles: The Grace of Survival: A Mom’s Story of How She and Her Family Dealt with CancerParenting and the Big C: How a Parent with Cancer Can Prepare Her KidsTalking to Your Children about Death Source:Veronica Mendoza, psychologist and community-based rehabilitation adviser for Handicap International, Belgium