Monday, February 6, 2012

Creative ways to help children talk about cancer in the family

BY: Kathleen McCue

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.


One Response to “Creative ways to help children talk about cancer in the family”

  1. Sara McCue Huckeby says:

    Frequently I am amazed at the connections in life. When I was searching for information on my sister Kathleen Ann McCue, I came upon your name.

    My sister was 14 years old when she died of Ewing sarcoma. It was a terrible time for my parents and I. It is only in the past few years that I realize that when my sister died I lost my entire family – my mother to her grief, my father to (take care of) my mother and other family members who wanted me to take her place. Being a stubborn Irishman, you can imagine how I reacted. My parents did a number of foolish things “for” me before and after she died. They were good people who did not know what to do and did the very best they could. And I was lost and alone.

    I am happy and have a wonderful family of my own and an extraordinary extended family that I may not have had if my life had been different.

    So I thank you for the work you are doing today and appreciate the irony of your sharing a name with my sister. The universe is full of family members and “sisters” who continue God’s work every day.

    God bless and keep you always.

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