How do we raise the issue of breast cancer to children without getting them too scared?
A few years ago, breast cancer advocates Bob and Linda Carey were trying to create a “Ballerina” image for breast cancer awareness in Northern Michigan when a uniform police officer and detective walked over to question their intentions. The detective explained they had received a call from teachers of an elementary school over hill. They were concerned for what the children would think if they “saw a big old man dressed as a ballerina”.
Over the years we have learned that a child’s mind is very open, and they rarely judge Bob without asking questions first. What happens after they find out what we are doing? Well, yes, they laugh! But we have also heard many kids tell us that their mom had/has breast cancer and that it would be fun to find ways to make her laugh.
Finding Ways to Help Children Cope with a Family Member’s Breast Cancer Diagnosis
While The Tutu Project can be a source for art therapy or escape through laughter, how do we treat the seriousness of a conversation about cancer with children?
Here are some tips for talking to children about cancer that we found as we researched this idea:
- Plan out the conversation in advance. Seek the advice from professionals at your cancer center, oncologist or a therapist before talking to them. Don’t be afraid to read from notes!
- Make sure children know that the cancer isn’t their fault.
- Tell children how treatment for cancer will affect you and the family’s schedule. Let children know you will still make time for them.
- Reassure children that their needs will be met.
- Keep usual limits in place.
- Invite children to ask questions and learn more.
- Set a positive, optimistic tone without making promises.
- Let teachers, school counselors, coaches, and other caregivers know what is going on.
- Kids need to know that it is still okay to be happy, laugh and act like themselves when faced with illness in the family. Let them know that their smile makes you feel better, no matter the circumstance!
There are also online resources, such as free support groups from CancerCare.org. They also have a wonderful resource called “Supporting a Loved One with Metastatic Breast Cancer” that caregivers should read as a resource.
Some of these ideas were also sourced from Breastcancer.org. We highly recommend them as a reource. Visit them to find out more.
Share your own stories and we’ll be highlighting your ideas throughout the year via our social media channels!
Marcela Shine is Founder of Avanzar Ventures, Business Manager of The Tutu Project and an advisor to the Carey Foundation. Her company, Avanzar Ventures, has been supporting the project by providing operational, social media and technical implementation strategy since the inception of the project.