It’s never easy for parents to tell their child that he or she will need treatment for cancer. Depending on their age, many children may not understand what is wrong with them or what the treatment entails. Together with your child’s doctors, nurses and child life specialists, you can help prepare your child for treatment so they will know what to expect and be less afraid. The child life specialists at Levine Children’s Hospital, in Charlotte, NC, are trained to provide psychosocial and emotional support for hospitalized children, helping explain hospital procedures and treatments in age-appropriate ways. But here are some ways you can help prepare your child before treatment begins.
Once you have spoken with your child’s physician, asked all the questions you need and are clear on your child’s diagnosis, it’s time to explain it directly to your little one. Begin by explaining the diagnosis using simple, nonthreatening words, such as “The doctor will fix the problem.”
If your child is older, encourage him or her to ask you or the physician questions so they understand everything and don’t feel lost or alone in the process.
Before undergoing treatment, a child may develop a variety of fears. This is normal, and it’s important that you, once again, explain away their fears using simple language and explaining the roles certain physicians, such as an anesthesiologist, will play in their treatment. Always reassure them that you will be right there when they wake up.
If your child is a teenager, a good way to help ease their fears is to allow them to read up on their medical condition and the treatment they will be receiving.
Our KidsHealth Resource Center is a great place for parents and children to start.
Making sure your child is comfortable the day of their treatment is important. By bringing books or toys t from home, they can gain a sense of normalcy. Older children may want to bring along electronics such as music devices or laptops. Be sure to check with a member of the healthcare team before bringing any belongings to the hospital on the day of treatment.