Cancer or Illness

Soft Cover
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The purpose of this book is to help a child deal with a loved one who has a cancer (or other illness) that needs to be surgically handled. Since the implications of cancer can be so significant in terms of overall health and prognosis, parents’ inclination is often to shield the child from too much detail, so as not to cause concern. However, what we know is that children are like “sponges” and can sense the feelings of the household.  Rather than express this verbally, a child will often act out the feelings they pick up (but do not understand) in their behavior. Since children are egocentric, when they are not told honestly what is happening, they both pick up on the feelings of anxiety and presume it is something they’ve done to cause it. It is therefore best to share honestly at a developmentally appropriate level so they can process the feelings in healthy way.  Since children are concrete thinkers, it’s important to give them factual information to help them make sense of what is happening in their family. It’s best to give little bits of info at a time to satisfy the want to know (“the drip method”), and then wait to see if the child needs more.

This story focuses overall on what will happen/change and what will stay the same. It introduces the concept of cancer in a matter-of-fact way. Most parents fear exposing their child to this concept given the seriousness of the diagnosis, yet as children do not have the subjective context about cancer that adults do, they can typically handle the information with relative ease. The story also introduces the concept of a surgical operation without subjectivity (fear, concern, worry or possibilities) but simply the pure intention of the process…to fix the problem. This explanation is easily grasped by a child and provides comfort to all. Then the plan of what to expect is outlined, which further gives a sense of control to the child during an unsettling time for the family. The story also normalizes the feelings of sadness or worry, and reassures there will be support. It further helps the child participate in caring acts toward the patient, which gives them an active way to express their feelings and positively impact the loved one. This gives the child a sense of control at a time when they have none. Lastly, the story reassures that although time will be needed for healing, when the problem is fixed, normal activities will resume.

Scripted by:

Allison LaTona

Parenting Consultant, Santa Monica's Babygroup