How to Talk To Little Kids About Breast Cancer
One mom suggests ways parents can approach having a conversation about breast cancer with their children.
Did you know 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer during her lifetime?
A mother with breast cancer has to not only cope with the disease herself, but she also has to explain the illness to her children, all while feeling physiologically and psychologically weakened. A mother with breast cancer is afraid of being defeated by her illness and leaving her children behind. It’s an emotional challenge, so let these couple of tips can help all parents, healthy or not, discuss breast cancer with children.
Having a dialogue about breast cancer with kids will depend on that child's ability to understand the disease. Parents, take note of where your child is developmentally (both emotionally and physically). Without knowing your child’s emotional development, explaining the disease can be somewhat tricky, and the last thing you want is any confusion to lead to additional problems.
Below you'll find tips that can be used when you're ready to talk to kids about breast cancer.
From a healthy parent's perspective:
1. Explain the dangers of breast cancer, from early to late symptoms. You can gather information from books or websites that explain the what the symptoms of breast cancer look like. Again, keep in mind a child’s age. Younger children (ages 0-5) often cannot grasp the deadliness and difficulty of the disease.
2. Likewise, understanding the long term effects might be difficult to comprehend. Instead, explain some of the typical symptoms associated with the disease: weight loss, constant fatigue, hair loss, etc.
3. Describe the causes of breast cancer: an unhealthy diet, excessive alcohol consumption, genetic factors, and hormones. The goal is for kids learn how to live a healthy life to lessen the chances of developing cancer. Begin this discussion early on as living an unhealthy lifestyle, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol are some of the greatest factors in determining a person’s chances in developing any form of cancer.
4. Explain that living a healthy lifestyle can prevent kids from developing cancer: eating wholesome food consisting of fresh fruit and vegetables, getting regular exercise, limiting the amount of alcohol consumed to a minimum. Avoid breathing polluted air or drinking polluted water. And, of course, limit the exposure to excessive sunlight!
5. Explain how kids should behave when parents or relatives are affected by breast cancer. This is important because when adults practice empathy, children are able to develop empathy and respond appropriately if their relative suffers from breast cancer. Realistically, this can be taught when children are closer to age 5 or older.
Tips for parents who have/had had breast cancer:
1. Assure kids that mother’s breast cancer is not their fault. Some kids, especially those who were breastfed, feel guilty when seeing their mother suffer from cancer; they often think it's because they were breastfed. However, breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast cancer. Kids have to be reassured of this to support their mother who is suffering.
2. Assure children that no matter what happens, you still love them. Pain that’s suffered by a mother may cause kids to feel left out. So, mom or dad, you need to assure your kids that you still love them no matter what.
3. Reassure your children that you need their support and their help. Involve your kids in taking care of you. In doing so, they can learn to better understand the pain due to mother’s breast cancer.
Should children help take care of mom?
Involving a child in helping care for mom will make the “battle of breast cancer” more apparent. Children can join in the battle with mom (or dad). Some children might develop empathy and patriotism! Equipped with a can-do attitude, children will be happy to help mom fight breast cancer.
Secondly, mom will be inspired by the kids’ spirit. Their combined spirit will make mom more powerful in fighting her enemy: breast cancer! Some even believe this spirit will add strength to mom's immunity, and facilitate healing.
So, are you ready to talk about breast cancer with your children? Even if there is no breast cancer in your family, now is the time to start talking about healthy living and making good choices! Plus, cancer can develop in even the healthiest of us. We want our children to become good health ambassadors who can carry on the desire to live a long and healthy life. Your kids will be the agent of change for their families, friends and their own children.
If you're looking for kid-friendly reading resources about cancer, especially breast cancer, you can read The Lemonade Club by Patricia Polacco, and Mom Goes To War by Irene Aparici Martín. These are excellent books about kids that helping friends and mothers battling cancer.
About the All-Star Blogger
Marcellina Maria Magdalena is interested in homeschooling, parenting, and healthy living. She lives in a remote area in Indonesia with her amazing 11-year-old son and a wonderful husband. You can read her opinions at her blog www.marcellinamaria.my.id