Add Your Kids to Your Metastatic Cancer Care Team

Whether a preschooler or preteen, your child can play a crucial role in your metastatic cancer care. Here's how.

Health Monitor Staff

As you probably already realize, your cancer diagnosis will quickly turn into a family affair. And if you have young children, your diagnosis and treatment can be an especially scary time for them. One way to help children cope is to make them a part of your at-home metastatic cancer treatment care team.

“The parent has the cancer, but it’s a crisis in the children’s world,” notes Wendy S. Harpham, MD, a long-term cancer survivor, mother of three and best-selling author of numerous books, including, When a Parent Has Cancer: A Guide to Caring for Your Children. One way to help children cope, says Dr. Harpham, is to make them a part of your at-home cancer treatment care team.

“Children often feel good about contributing to the family, especially during difficult times,” she says. The key, however, is to let kids assist in ways that are healing and healthy for you both. “Aim for a balance between asking your kids to assume more responsibilities and letting them just be children,” she says.

Here, Harpham provides some helpful suggestions, depending on your child’s age and stage of development:

Very young, preschool: “You really help me when…

  • you play quietly when I sleep in the afternoon.”
  • you bring your dishes to the sink.”
  • you forgive me for being short-tempered when I’m in a bad mood.”
  • you make me a drawing to keep under my pillow, so I'll feel close to you when I'm sleeping."

Elementary school: “You really help me when…

  • you continue to do well in school.”
  • you enjoy your friends, play sports and continue your after-school activities.”
  • you understand when I can’t attend one of your events—or won’t be able to take you places—although I will make sure that someone else can.”
  • you leave me notes or drawings to keep in my purse or on my nightstand.”

Middle and high school: “You really help me when…

  • you help fix dinner and other chores.”
  • you do your laundry.”
  • you tell me about your day.”

October 2012