Photo by Ron Lach

Compared to her COVID-19 children’s storybooks, author Dora Przybylek tackles an arguably more severe case in her book “Luisita is Sick,” where the story revolves around talking about cancer to children. It’s not easy for parents to know that their child has cancer, and Przybylek’s book tries to help them cope with the treatment and diagnosis.

Cancer is undoubtedly a complex topic to discuss. It’s possible, even normal, to have concerns or doubts regarding this inevitable talk you’ll need to have with your child.

Today, we’ll look at some essential tips for telling your kid. We’ll also be looking at why talking about cancer to children helps them, what they understand about cancer, and how they possibly react to the news.

The Reason Why Talking About Cancer to Children Will Help Them

No matter what kind it is, most parents would want to protect their child from pain — even the discomfort of discussing cancer. Parents need to be kind to themselves, however. They need to acknowledge that it’s normal for them to struggle with the coping process of the prognosis or diagnosis. They must accept that it’s understandable to hesitate to talk about difficult conversations.

However, they must also realize that being honest and open is the best way to talk to children. They must remember that for kids, not knowing the truth, or if there are uncertainties left hanging in the air, is much harder to accept than the painful truth.

What Do Kids Know About Cancer?

Generally speaking, a child’s understanding of treatments and illnesses improves as they age. But ultimately, the knowledge level still depends on the individual kid. Age is merely a general guide about what kids can grasp about cancer.

Your child’s capability to comprehend is determined by how they learn and think. Only parents would know if their kids would learn through serious discussions or stories like reading COVID-19 children’s storybooks. Another factor to consider is their exposure or experience with previous ailments like cancer. Here is a brief bullet point of what a child’s understanding of cancer is:

• Extremely Young Kids – They don’t have any clue about illnesses, especially cancer, but they would notice the changes in mood, physique, and what they’re feeling.

• Preschool and Primary School-Aged Kids – They have a basic grasp of what illnesses are, but they’re primarily worried that they did something to cause cancer or that it is contagious.

• Older Kids – They better perceive how a person’s body functions and understand that people can seriously fall ill.

• Teenagers – They’re the ones who will most likely understand what cancer is thanks to their knowledge about body organs and cells, but they can have incorrect beliefs about cancer still.

Talking about cancer to children is an opportunity to discover if they have misconceptions about it. The parents could then gently correct the information they’ve learned.

How Will the Kid React to the News Once They Hear It?

Unfortunately, there is no way to fully know how a child might react if their parents told them they have cancer. Children are individuals, after all, and each one is expected to respond differently. But there are factors we could look into like:

• how the youngster usually contends with challenging situations

• the relationship they have with their parent/guardian

• the age they’re in

• the experience and understanding they have about cancer and other illnesses

• the level of emotional maturity they possess

Plenty of kids will understandably need regular reassurance that their illness is not something they caused because, sadly, children will often feel they’re to blame when something terrible happens, regardless of whether they express it.

Tips On Talking About Cancer to Children

Now, there isn’t a right time or way to talk about cancer to children. The best a parent can do is to:

• Mentally and emotionally prepare themselves as best as they can

• Not rush the news and take their time, gradually filling in the gaps

• It’s okay to say “I don’t know” to queries you have no answers to

• Assure them that they’ll still be taken care of and loved no matter what

Also, try to read “Luisita is Sick” by Dora Przybylek, found on her website at Dora Przybylek, to your child. The book offers solace to parents and children dealing with cancer. She also has COVID-19 children’s storybooks if you’re interested.

There truly is no easy way to talk about cancer. But we do hope this article helped give you a bit of courage or comfort. We wish anyone’s child battling cancer the best, and we’d like to remind them that everyone around them always loves them.

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