How to Talk to Your Children About Your Cancer Recurrence

Being diagnosed with cancer is an overwhelming experience that can profoundly affect your life and those around you. Talking to your children when you were initially diagnosed was likely challenging. Explaining a recurrence can be even more difficult. It’s natural to feel uncertain about how to communicate this to your children. Continue reading to learn practical advice and steps to talk to your children about your cancer recurrence.

Understanding Cancer Recurrence

Before delving into the communication aspect of cancer recurrence, it’s crucial to understand what it means. Cancer recurrence refers to the return of cancer after treatment and after a period during which cancer cannot be detected. Cancer can recur in the same place it started or in other parts of the body and can occur weeks, months, or years after the initial treatment. It’s categorized into local, regional, and distant recurrence.

Embrace Your Feelings

Facing a cancer recurrence can be an emotionally charged time, with a mix of fear, confusion, and anger. Recognizing your emotions and seeking professional help, like talking with a counselor or therapist, can be beneficial. Managing your own feelings before initiating a conversation with your children is important.

The Importance of Open Communication

Children can sense when something is wrong. Attempting to hide or downplay the situation can often lead to more anxiety and confusion. It’s essential to be open and honest about your cancer recurrence while keeping the information age-appropriate.

Preparing for the Conversation

Know the Facts

Before talking with your children, be equipped with all the facts about your condition. Much like your conversation when initially sharing your cancer diagnosis, you should include treatment plans, how it might affect daily life, and what support you’ll need.

Seek Professional Help

If you’re uncertain how to approach the conversation, contact a professional counselor, psychologist, social worker, or healthcare team. They can provide tools and strategies to help your children cope effectively.

Tailoring the Conversation to Your Child’s Age

Children understand and react to information differently depending on their age. Therefore, it’s vital to approach the conversation in an age-appropriate manner. Here are a few guidelines:

  • Preschoolers (3-5): Use simple language and reassure them that you’re getting the best help from doctors. Avoid details about the diagnosis and treatment.
  • Elementary School Children (6-12): Provide more detail but keep explanations simple. Be prepared for questions, and reassure them of your care and the support of others.
  • Teens (13-18): Offer a more detailed explanation. Encourage them to share their feelings and concerns, and respond honestly and openly.

Explain Cancer Recurrence in Simple Terms

When discussing your cancer recurrence, keep explanations simple and accurate. For example, you could say, “Sometimes, even after all the treatments, some cancer cells can stay in the body and start to grow again. It’s called cancer recurrence, and it means I have to get more treatments.”

Choose a Comfortable Environment

Opt for a familiar and comfortable setting. Doing so can help create a safe space for conversation and allows your children to express their feelings more freely.

Validate Their Feelings

Allowing your children to express their feelings about your cancer recurrence is essential. However, understand their reactions may vary, and all feelings, whether sadness, anger, or fear, are valid and should be acknowledged.

Maintain Open Communication

Regularly update your children about your condition and the progress of your treatments. Open communication can help reduce their anxieties and fears and increase their sense of security.

It’s okay not to have all the answers. What’s important is that you communicate openly, honestly, and compassionately with your children. The journey is challenging, but it’s essential to remember that help and support are available, ensuring you and your family don’t have to walk this path alone.

Help Us Empower Children Affected by a Parent’s Cancer

Kesem seeks to empower children affected by their parent’s cancer in several crucial ways. For example, your generosity allows us to offer Camp Kesem and all other year-round services free of charge, so any child dealing with a parent’s cancer can begin to heal, regardless of their economic situation. 

There are so many ways to give. Donations help Kesem change lives! You can help by participating in fundraising; donating through planned giving, donor-advised funds, or stock donations; attending or sponsoring an event; or shopping at our store. With your support, we can ensure that more children impacted by a parent’s cancer can feel joy, hope, and the magic that is Kesem.

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