Parachutes is a group offered at The Gathering Place for children who a family member currently living with cancer. This group meets twice per month, and each meeting is divided by age.
Children who attend this group are often dealing with very difficult situations in their lives, and sometimes bring a sense of sadness, helplessness and anger to the group. The group facilitators then attempt to help these youngsters develop their personal coping skills, and increase their sense of control.
Nine school age children, ages 8-11, recently created a mandala, which is loosely translated as “circle” and sometimes means “whole world.” It is often used to represent how one part of a person’s life fits into the rest of the entire person.
In the group, a circle of paper was divided into pie slice sections, and each child was given a section with the instructions to create anything that illustrated how cancer has touched their lives. Then the sections were fitted back together, to complete the mandala.
Each child had the opportunity to share with the group his or her thoughts about cancer and it’s place in life. Some of the children in this group have a difficult time with focus, and with expressing their emotions, but every child was very invested in their section of the mandala.
Cancer cells, the cancer battle or struggle, medical equipment, and the ill person in the family were all depicted in the various sections of the mandala. And after group, the children proudly shared their creation with waiting parents. Being able to express thoughts and feelings about cancer gives children the opportunity to maintain their own healthy lives in spite of a seriously ill family member.
Kathleen McCue is the Director of Children’s Programming at The Gathering Place, a cancer support center in Cleveland, Ohio that provides free programs and services for individuals and families coping with cancer.