PARENTING WITH CANCER
Young Adult Cancer Fighter, Susan & daughter, Jocelyn.
Rose Cummings in a licensed clinical psychologist and Boon Project board member. She shares some thoughts and advice for those who are parenting while also navigating a cancer diagnosis. Read her words below and feel free to contact her with questions or to schedule a session.
From Mrs. Cummings:
One question that I often get from parents that have or have had cancer is “how do I parent with cancer?” As a parent, I know that this is one of, if not the most important job to most of us. One of your first thoughts upon diagnosis is likely to be your children. Here are a few tips when dealing with this stressor.
1) First and foremost, you must learn to ask for help, and accept it when it comes your way.
You will need the help. If you have family or friends that offer to do things for you, practice your response dialogue. It’s likely that you haven’t often accepted help from others, so you will want to be prepared with what to say when they offer. Some ideas are “yes, thank you. I could definitely use that. Would you mind giving me a call next week?” You might ask someone especially close to you to organize help from others so you can pass on their phone number and avoid the extra planning. Some examples of extra help that will be especially helpful are meals, yard work, house cleaning, child pick-up, grocery drop-off, etc. Having these tasks completed, will allow you to have quality time with your family. You will have less of it and it will mean more to you than ever so think ahead to ensure you have some time with them. Utilize your resources for you and your children. Some of these might include your child’s school guidance counselor, afterschool programs, or support through your place of worship.
2) Ask your children for help.
They want to help you, and this will allow them to overcome the feeling of powerlessness. They can feel like they’re helping to make a difference. Don’t feel guilty about asking for help from your children. It’s normal to want to help those that you love. An idea is to use a chart to log chores that are “accomplished” rather than “completed.” Use simple incentives like they get to pick their own dessert or they get their choice of music on the way to school. Show appreciation with things like movie night or a family ice cream outing.
*Accept their best efforts to keep them motivated.
3) Re-evaluate your priorities.
Spend less time cooking. Cook double and freeze meals. Use grocery store pick-up and delivery options. If there are activities that you have been pushing that your children aren’t in love with, let them go. Remember that the house doesn’t always have to be clean and pizza for dinner is fine.
4) Talk with your children. Don’t avoid the topic.
Use the word cancer to reduce confusion. Explain that it is not contagious and no one causes it. Don’t over indulge. The facts are often enough. This is not one of the cases where you tell them when they ask. Use age-appropriate responses. Using a math scenario may be helpful. If they are at an addition/subtraction level, you wouldn’t try to explain trigonometry. Most children understand this explanation and let them know that you will explain more complicated details as they’re ready to understand them. They will appreciate the transparency and the reservation if not now, one day. Explain to them that you will keep their routine as consistent as possible, but that changes will happen now and again, and that you appreciate their patience. Give a realistic but always hopeful assessment. Assure them that they will always be taken care of. Consider role-playing this conversation with a loved one. Words are tricky. An individual is diagnosed, but a family experiences cancer.