Cancer and children

Fri, 12 Jul 2019

Some things can be hard to explain to children about life, but one thing that can cause a lot of pain and anxiety is telling them their parent has cancer.

The council has launched a one year cancer awareness campaign and is highlighting the effects of cancer, including how families deal with the diagnosis and where support comes from.

The campaign is currently focussing on how families deal with cancer, whether it is an adult or a child who is going through the diagnosis.

Many people diagnosed with cancer have children, or children in their lives such as nieces, nephews, grandchildren, great grandchildren, godchildren or the children of friends.

As children get older they are able to understand more about illness and treatment, but younger children may struggle to understand why mummy is always ill, why daddy can’t play right now or why grandma is always at the hospital.

Being open and honest is almost always the best way with children and it’s important to listen to their fears:

  • Try to understand that naughty or unusual behaviour may be their way of showing how upset they are
  • Give them small pieces of news, gradually building up a picture of your illness
  • Don’t keep secrets because even small children can guess when something is wrong
  • Remember that their fears of what might happen are likely to be far worse than the real situation
  • Remember that uncertainty or not knowing may be harder for them to cope with than the truth

A doctor, nurse or counsellor can help give advice on how to handle this situation.

Children only need simple explanations and may need to have these explanations repeated as they try to take in the changes.

If it comes up, it’s important to reassure children that they are in no way to blame for what has happened and they do not need to feel guilty about it. A parent’s illness is not related to the child’s behaviour.

John Skidmore, director for adults, health and customer services at East Riding of Yorkshire Council, said: "It's important to know that support is available for people going through this tough time and that there is advice on hand for delicate issues, such as telling a child about a diagnosis.

"With support from partner health organisations in the East Riding, the council is helping people manage cancer by raising awareness of it and offering support to those who need it."

For more information on cancer support, visit www.happyandwell.me