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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

What To Say When Mom Or Dad Has Cancer

Today's post was shared by Kaiser Health News and comes from

HOUSTON -- At any one time, an estimated 2.9 million children have a parent who has, or has had, cancer.

Dozens of studies show that many of these children experience worry and stress, but that good communication can ease their fears and isolation, even up to the point of a parent’s death. Still, figuring out what to tell the kids – and when – is not an easy decision, and many parents who have cancer get little to no advice from their doctors about how to handle it.

Two hospitals in Houston are tackling the issue with support groups for parents and children. The Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital and MD Anderson Cancer Center work with The Children’s Treehouse Foundation to offer emotional and practical support for families dealing with the disease.

Martha Aschenbrenner, a hospice counselor at MD Anderson, says that a very natural response to a cancer diagnosis is to try to protect children by hiding the facts or keeping them vague. But she urges parents to tell their children what’s happening in age-appropriate ways. Whether Mom or Dad is going to die is usually one of the first things a pre-teen will ask, she says.

“The wrong way to answer the question is ‘No, no, I’m not going to die.’ Because you can’t promise that,” Aschenbrenner says. “A better way that also invites more conversation is: ‘That is not my plan. And I’m going to a hospital where they’re going to give me very strong medicine,...

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