GYNECOLOGICAL CANCER: PROTECTING CHILDREN FROM DISTRESS
GYNECOLOGICAL CANCER: PROTECTING CHILDREN FROM DISTRESS To protect young children from this distressing time, parents too often choose to keep all information about the cancer away from them. This is a mistake. What we now know is that if children, regardless of their age, are appropriately supported with open and honest information (relevant to their age) they will have a better capacity to cope with your illness. The extent of detail will depend on their age and personality, and level of both professional and family support that is available.Even though our primary concern toward the children may be in protecting them from cancer by not talking about it too much we need to understand that children are exceptionally perceptive to any change in emotions within their immediate environment.Children are usually acutely aware of changes within family dynamics and will sense a tension long before it becomes obvious to others. Even the youngest of children now understand the word ‘cancer’ and have some idea… usually wrong…about it and what it may mean. The last thing a child wants is to hear from friends that their mum has a malignancy and might die. ‘Your Mum’s got cancer and she’s going to cark it’ was a comment made to one of our contributor’s sons at school. It is important to inform the child’s school, sporting clubs or any group they are associated with. Advise each group how you would like the situation handled and the extent of detail that you want to be discussed with the child and other members. The repercussions can take a long time to repair.Sharing the truth with a child allows them to offer support in a way that is meaningful to them even if it is just doing a drawing for you to keep with you in hospital. You will be quite emotional in sharing the news; so it may be helpful to have someone with you while you are breaking the news . . . being hopeful and optimistic about your treatment will reassure them that you are in good hands.It also allows you to discuss how you would like the child to help and involve them in the planning for your recovery. Many women do not use the term ‘cancer’ when discussing their illness, especially in the early stages, because of the widespread fear that the word tends to generate. Many speak of it as an illness that will require them to go to hospital, which the treatment will make them tired, and they may lose their hair. You will know the best way to communicate to your child and what you reasonably think they can cope with at each stage. Most importantly you need to reinforce to the child that it is not their fault. . . that your illness is something that many women get; that they will be well cared for and supported while you are having your treatment.Be realistic about their need to grieve as well, and show it acceptable to cry. After all your absence will fill them with fear.When children sense that there is a situation that might mean that Mum, Grandma or Auntie may not be around, or are not there all the time to look after them, protect and nurture them, they may feel enormously threatened especially as a sophisticated understanding of the situation is impossible for them and they cannot verbalize their fears. They may manifest their feelings in becoming over dependent; clinging; taking a morbid fascination in death, fretful during your absences in hospital.It is useful to have a picture of yourself near the phone at home so that when they are talking to you at least they can visualize you.*59/144/5*
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