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Supporting the Cancer Conversation – cont’

• Ask them what they know. Don’t just ask the children if they know what cancer is and leave it at that. Ask questions like “tell me what you know about cancer.” Find out exactly what they think it is. If they think it’s contagious or always leads to death, this is a good time to nip those misconceptions in the bud.

• Be honest. If you don’t know the answer to something, say so – and let the children know you’ll tell them when you do know the answer. Honesty builds trust, and they won’t feel like you’re hiding something from them.

• Reassure them that it’s not their fault. Children may worry that mom has cancer because they did something wrong. Also let them know there’s nothing they can do to “fix” it, either.

• Give them a sense of control. Let the children know they can come with you to see the doctor if they want to. Even if they’re not interested, it shows them you’re not hiding anything.

• Don’t avoid questions. Sometimes children might ask the same questions over and over again. That’s normal – they’re looking for clarity and consistency. Be patient and always answer truthfully. If you don’t know the answer to something, be honest. Follow up by telling the child you will find someone who can answer that question for them.