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Sharing the news with kids!

Kesslers3885
Posts: 2
Joined: Sep 2009

My father (75) has just been diagnosed with small cell lung cancer. I'm not sure what stage, but it has spread to lymph nodes so it is not 'limited'. They will start chemo in a week and a half. My children (9,9,11) are very involved in his life and he in theirs. They are very close. I'd like some advice on how to talk to my children about grandpa's disease and treatment. My biggest fear is that they will retreat from him as he becomes more ill. This would be devastating for all of them. They are bright kids and have been through many of Grandpa's illnesses over the past. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Pitapocket
Posts: 16
Joined: May 2009

I am so sorry to hear about your dad. I lost my dad almost 2 years ago and it was devestating to say the least, as we were extremely close. My kids were a bit older than yours. However, we cannot shield our children from these horrible things. It is a part of life. If you keep it from them, they will pick up on it eventually. So, my suggestion is this: First, be honest but age appropriate. Have they ever lost a pet? How did you explain it to them? Maybe say something like "Grandpa is sick. He may get better or he may get worse. If he gets better, then we will be so happy. But I want to tell you that if he gets worse, he may pass away. It will be tough, and you will see him changing. But I want you to know that no question is off limits. You can ask me anything. It's okay to be afraid. We are all afraid. But I am here for you and I will always be open to talk about it. When you are around Grandpa, try to be happy and try to be helpful. If you get to a point where you don't really want to be around Grandpa because it makes you upset, I want you to feel like you can talk to me about it and we will handle it together." I am a firm believer in open communication with kids. However, I would also suggest to them that if they want to talk about it with you, that it needs to be a private conversation just between you and them because "we don't want to upset Grandpa". I think the more you involve them and explain things as they are happening, the less likely they will be to retreat. For instance, cancer will make him lose weight. If you tell them that ahead of time, then it won't be shocking. Also, maybe they can be involved in baking things or making nurioushing smoothies for him to keep his weight up. This way, they will know they are helping him and it keeps the bond close. Good luck to you and your family. This is a journey for all of you. You are a family and you need to walk through everything together... even the tough stuff. It will be hard, but this is one of those things that you will not be able to protect them from. You will ALL be in my thoughts and prayers.

Kesslers3885
Posts: 2
Joined: Sep 2009

Thank you for your kind words of encouragement and advice. I wish I could read your reply to them verbatim....it will be very helpful. The bigger part be maintaining my composure while telling them. I'm afraid I'll lose it and make the whole process of comforting them worse.

Thanks again.

Pitapocket
Posts: 16
Joined: May 2009

It's okay to let your kids see you cry. This is not an easy thing. Let them know that you have something to tell them and you may cry. Please don't feel like you have to keep a "stiff upper lip" about this. Allow yourself to be what some would call "weak". By being honest with yourself about your emotions, you will discover a strength that you never knew you had. I promise you. When my dad was diagnosed, I was terrified. We decided on that day, that we would not sugar coat anything. We will be realistic and honest with each other. By agreeing to that it opened the dialogue to talk about literally anything. No matter how bad things got. We were able to cry together, and laugh together. We did not take on the "I am the patient, and you are the caregiver" role. We decided that we would walk through everything together. It was the ABSOLUTE toughest thing I had ever done in my life watching him go through that. But it was also the best thing I had ever done. I have no regrets in the way dad and I handled our journey with cancer. I miss him every single day. But one thing it did not take away from us is the bond. I feel that because we went through that together, I am a woman of strength. He taught me to look at adversity right square in the eye and dare to take it on. I am not trying to preach to you. This is extremely hard for you. And I wish I could give you a hug right now. I really think that that the very first thing you need to do, before anything, is cry. Then, get up, and take the first step by going to your family. You need them just as much as they need you. You can all do this together. My heart goes out to you. Please know that someone out here in cyber world is thinking of you. And if you ever need to vent, I'm here. You will experience every single emotion through this, and it is normal and expected. So take care of yourself and allow yourself to grieve.

Best wishes
Kellie

cabbott
Posts: 1048
Joined: Aug 2006

When I was first diagnosed with cancer back in 2002, my husband and I didn't quite agree on how to handle talking about cancer around my then 10 year old son. My husband didn't want to upset him and therefore wanted me to do all the crying and talking on the phone to all my friends with the bedroom door closed and my son out of the room. We had told him about the cancer, but shutting the door to protect him from all the tears didn't work at all. When we caught him with his ear on the bathroom wall on the other side of my bedroom wall where the phone was desparately trying to find out what I was telling others that I wasn't telling him, we all agreed that the open door policy was best for our family. I told my son that he would be told anything I knew (not that I knew much at the time). He was welcome to come in when I was talking (or more likely crying!) on the phone or he could leave. I told him I probably would cry alot because I was very emotional, but that he already knew anything that I would ever share with anyone else. After that he would sometimes come in and flop on the bed as I talked with relatives and friends. After awhile, he seemed reassured that nothing worse was happening and would leave to go back to playing in another room. Later he told me that he had just been worried that I was going to die and leave him and just hadn't told him. I know that not all kids would be like my son and need to know the truth. But for him, knowing the truth at all times made his shaky little world a lot more secure. It was easier on him if I didn't hide my sorrow and, to tell the truth, a lot easier on me as well. Now he knows I will always tell him the truth.

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