Part of our job, as parents, is to teach our children a multitude of things. We help them learn how to tie their shoes, write their name and ride a bicycle. We help them to navigate social settings and make new friends. The dual role of parent/teacher is often a fun passing of knowledge to the next generation.
There are some things, however, that we never want to teach our children. There are topics we wish never had to be addressed. No one, for instance, looks forward to sitting their child down and explaining cancer. Yet, we live in a broken world. When cancer, or some other illness, invades our family we must be willing and able to discuss it with our children.
Just a few short months ago, my mother found a lump in her neck. What was originally thought to be a minor infection, turned out to be two separate cancers attacking her body. Suddenly, my husband and I had to explain to our little girls a situation that was baffling even the best of doctors.
Here are some tips for talking to your children about cancer.
- Pray. Continually pray for wisdom when it comes to the information you share with the children. James 1:5 tells us that, if anyone lacks wisdom, he should ask for it from God.
- Have Casual Conversations. There does not need to be a formal, serious “sit down because I have bad news” kind of talk. Keep it casual. Talk about it during prayer time. If something on the television sparks a conversation, stop and discuss it. Conversation should be very natural.
- Prepare Them. From the very beginning, as much as possible, prepare them for potential changes. Let them know that grandma will be more tired than usual. Talk about the hair loss or any other physical changes that may occur. Try to limit the shock factor.
- Talk Often. Children take a while to process information. You may not want to talk about cancer for the tenth time that day but, if they do, then talk about it.
- Don’t make promises. One of the hardest questions that will likely be asked, “Is grandma going to die?” It is okay to say that you don’t know. However, be sure to follow that up by expressing your faith in the One who has healing in His hands.
- Emotion is okay. While no parent likes to see their children cry, it is vital that they be allowed to express their emotions. The home should be a safe place for feelings.
Parenting is not an easy task, not even on the best of days. It requires prayer, determination, selflessness and an absolute dependence on Christ. If your family is facing a cancer diagnosis, or any other serious illness, with someone you love then take the time to talk with your children.