So you have cancer; how do you help your kids cope?
In our case, cancer blindsided us two months ago. For me, the thought of what I was about to face was nowhere as near as scary as trying to figure out how to tell our 7-year-old son or how to help him cope.
My husband Chris and I, after all, are adults; we could figure out ways of finding help and support, we could research and lose ourselves in hobbies if we had the chance. But what about our son?
The answer is never easy. In my case, I did all my work from my home office so that I could spend more time with him growing up; we are buddies and constant companions, and I realized that I had to figure out ways of helping him through the ways his life was about to change.
At the end of the day, you know your child best. I don’t think there’s any one answer, but I’m happy to share the things that we have done with our son; it’s still early in the cancer journey, so I am sure there will be many more challenges ahead. Day by day we do the best we can.
Websites and Games!
The BC Cancer Agency has a wonderful website for kids… Cancer in my family: http://www.cancerinmyfamily.ca
It lets them explore through games and activities their feelings (and let’s them play videogames!)
Another that we found our son really likes too is called “Where’s my Water“. In it there is this alligator in the sewers who just wants to take a shower with clean water. Unfortunately, there is also this invasive moss that grows unchecked if the water checks it, and this sort of purple goo that can vaporize the water — but its also the one thing that destroys the moss so that the water can get through clean. I tried to explain to him that the PMP is sort of like that invasive moss, and the chemo is the goo that will help clear it all out and destroy it, so that my body can get the ‘water’ it needs to function.
He now believes that chemo is purple, of course.
Granted, for me this was the default because it’s what I do. I love art in every form. Whether it’s letting the kids draw (or better, drawing with them!), letting them play with clay or playdoh… anything that lets them explore feelings and share some time with you.
With our son I decided to make an illustration too – I sat with him and told him I was going to draw him in his ‘happy place’. I then asked him to tell me what he wanted in it, and we added it all together. I coloured the final version with his direction too. I think it helped that it was an activity of creation we were doing together, but also that it was something done with his input and direction.
I get frustrated feeling that I am not in control of this journey most of the time; it’s only natural that he did too. This at least he could control!
We planted a series of plants in our balcony after we read a book called The Goodbye Cancer Garden. The book is beautifully written and illustrated, and if you have young kids I’d definitely recommend it. Our son has us read it to him every night.
From it we decided to make our own garden; growing mint, strawberries, tomatoes… well, it helps us to see growing things. 🙂 They will bear fruit while I am away having my cancer surgery, so while I am taking care of myself and healing the garden will be growing and giving fruit. I figure that by the time I’m ready to go home they will have some awesome produce we can hopefully enjoy together.
For us, it helped to be open but not overwhelm him with information. It has also helped that his school has been incredibly supportive of him and all of us.
Day by day, and step by step….