Pre-teens and tweens are starting to develop more peer relationships outside the family and may see mom’s cancer diagnosis as a barrier to those relationships. Their emotions will be complex – fear and sadness may come out as anger, or they may hide their feelings out of guilt. While they may have a good understanding of what cancer is and even have a grasp of some of the medical aspects, they may not have all the information. They may think, for example, that everyone who gets cancer will die.
How to help:
- Encourage open, honest communication. Address long-term issues and any physical changes that may happen as mom undergoes treatment. Tell them it’s okay if they’re angry – and let parents know that while anger may be hard to deal with, it’s a normal reaction. Encourage appropriate ways to express that anger.
- Try to maintain extracurricular and social activities to give them peer -support and social interaction.
- Involve them in care whenever it’s appropriate, helping mom get comfortable after a treatment, drawing a picture for her, setting the table for dinner, helping with meal prep. Encourage children to do more in terms of their own self-care, like making their own lunches for school, determining when they need to have a bath, go to bed, etc.