One of the biggest challenges you will face after a diagnosis of breast cancer is how to tell your children or grandchildren. Telling adult children is tough. Trying to explain it to younger children is even harder.
The way your children cope and understand will depend on their age and maturity.
Children are very perceptive and will sense if something is wrong, so it's better to talk to them about what is happening as soon as possible. For a child to learn that they have been 'misled' with even the noblest of intents provides a context for mistrust, anger and resentment.
“As children grow, they need further explanations and updates about the disease - take a cue from their questions but 'keep it simple,” explains breast cancer survivor Ivana.
Your children may feel a range of emotions and express these in different ways, from behaving badly to putting on a brave face. Making sure that your child understands that their needs and concerns will be addressed can go a long way in reassuring them.
“Initially, I tried to hide what was happening to me from my daughter. But I realised that she needed to know and when I explained things in small pieces she coped well” said Karen after her own breast cancer diagnosis.
Psychiatrist, Dr. Jane Turner, offers the following advice for how to help your child come to terms with your breast cancer diagnosis.
Things that will probably help
- maintaining routine
- negotiating tasks
- telling children it is not their fault
- encouraging children to participate in sport and normal activities
- giving information in stages
- letting children talk even about difficult things
- letting the school know
- letting them see that you are upset sometimes.
Things that probably won't help
- keeping secrets
- letting go of structure and rules
- giving orders
- telling children to be 'good for mummy'
- expecting children to spend all of their time at home 'because time together is precious'
- talking about possible outcomes into the future
- rushing to reassure
- trying to fix everything for them
- always adopting a facade and pretending everything is OK.
My Mum Has Breast Cancer – family’s cancer journey by Lisa & Harrison Sewards Bella and Harrison's mum, Lisa, got breast cancer. This is their story written and illustrated by them, to show what life was like for them as well as the rest of the family. It also shows what their mum went through to overcome it.
The net proceeds of the book will be donated to Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) and The Cancer Council Victoria. Order by telephone 03 9598 5111 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on how to tell your children you – or someone they love – has breast cancer, visit the Breast Cancer Network Australia website.
If you or someone you care about has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, contact Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) for a My Journey Kit, a free information resource for newly diagnosed women - 1800 500 258 or the BCNA Website
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