How should a sick mom talk to a child about cancer? Some major hospitals have begun to offer programs designed for parents who have serious or incurable illnesses and need guidance explaining the disease, treatment and more to their kids
Full disclosure: the incredibly articulate and funny mom interviewed, Janice Hayes-Cha, treated for both colon and breast cancer, is my cousin. As parents of a 7-year-old, a 5-year-old and 3-year-old twins, Janice and husband Jang-Ho heard all kinds of questions from their kids while Janice underwent chemo and surgeries. One of the toughest came from Joanie, 5: ‘Who’s going to be my mommy?’
Janice, always quick-minded, listed all the women who would be in her daughter’s life to take care of her – aunts and her grandmother and nanny. Now that Janice is in remission, she has a different answer to her daughter’s question: “I’ve told her that I think she’ll be all grown up when I die,” she says. “She might even be a mommy herself.”
One principle that most counselors agree on: don’t call the illness a boo-boo. If you do, the kids may assume their own boo-boos are just as serious. For more info on such hospital programs, click here. This children’s book “Butterfly Kisses and Wishes on Wings: When someone you love had cancer… a hopeful, helpful book for kids” helps educate and support any child who is facing the cancer of a loved one.