Thursday, 24 November 2016

Weekly Discussion Summary ~ How Do You Talk To Children About Breast Cancer?

In this week's discussion, we shared our experiences of talking about our breast cancer diagnoses with our children which highlighted a universal, instinctive and over-riding wish to shield our children from the fears and uncertainties that a cancer diagnosis inevitability brings into their lives.

How do we help our children cope? How do we find the words to explain a complex and frightening disease? How do we choose words so not to mislead? How do we give our children confidence at a time when we ourselves are likely to be dealing with overwhelming fears and the physical demands of treatment?

These are some of the questions our members, with children between infancy and adulthood, are grappling with. We touched on the demands of parenting while living with a life-changing illness, and our joy in being with, and caring for our children. Some of us had experienced multiple diagnoses or are living with secondary breast cancer, which meant that our children were exposed to further, or ongoing uncertainty.

Our views on what to tell children varied depending on the stage we ourselves were at, the age, needs and personality of our child, and our own views as a parent. Some of us favoured openness whereas others were more reticent about sharing worrying information. We also realised that just like us, children take their experience of cancer forward with them, and it's a subject they may come back to again as their understanding of the disease changes, or memories and new questions are triggered by media stories.

From a psychological perspective, Naz encouraged us to consider that the more our children can talk about their fears, the more resilient they become as we can support them to prepare themselves for their future.

We heard that talking, writing and confiding in a trusted adult are all tools which can give our children the strength they need to deal with the uncertainty they face. If we can talk about issues, in a simple and honest way, while believing in our own resilience, then we can strengthen our relationship with our children, whilst opening up avenues to make the situation easier for them.

We learned that there is no golden standard, or rules, to say what works and what doesn't – it’s all about managing, confronting, and accepting. While it certainly is not easy, we all wanted to help our children to express and manage their fears - whatever their age.

It was incredibly painful for us to accept the potential vulnerability that our cancer imposes on our children. However, we learned that our children are more resilient than we think they are, and although some of us described our diagnoses as having a profound impact on our children, we also heard how, with time, and support, it was possible for them to come through these dark times and thrive.

Attached is an article which paints a beautiful and moving picture of how a mother explains her depression to her toddler, offering a parallel to the complexities of talking about breast cancer; '5 top tips' from Macmillan, and a link for rethink, a service which aims to raise awareness of cancer in schools:


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