Kids and Cancer: Helping children’s friends

In the preschool years, friendships are becoming increasingly important, but not nearly as important as they will be later in childhood and adolescence.  Your children’s friends obtain their security from their own parents, and are more impacted by illness in their own families than in another child’s family.  However, there are a few things to keep in mind as you help your child deal with your cancer as it effects his or her friendships.

FIRST – If there are children that come to your house to play, make sure that their parents understand what is happening in your family, and what their child is likely to see, hear, and experience when visiting your home.

You will want to know how those parents will want questions answered, if your child’s friend asks you directly about the cancer in your family.

You also will want those parents to let you know if your child’s friend expresses any concerns or behavior changes that seem to result from spending time with you and your child.

As we have said so many times, open communication will help both your child and his or her friend to manage the reality of cancer in a healthy manner.

SECOND – Speaking of play visits, it is really important for your son or daughter to continue to have play times at home, as long as the ill adult can tolerate active children and a bit of noise.

It may take some creativity, but you want to maintain these opportunities for your child as much as possible, even if it means that they play in an area away from the sick adult.

If it just won’t work for children to play at your home, don’t hesitate to accept offers of play dates at the homes of your child’s friends.  These experiences with friends help your preschooler distract themselves from family illness as well as continuing their social development.

THIRD – Prepare your child for getting questions from his or her friends.  Your child might hear, “Where is your Mommy’s hair?” or “Why does your Daddy sleep on the couch all day?”

You can help your child figure out how to answer these questions, and also be assured that you child will tell you when such questions come up.  It is unlikely that preschoolers will ask really provocative questions like “Is your Mommy going to die?” but you would definitely want your child to tell you immediately if such difficult questions arise.

Discussing the possibility of questions with your child will ensure that your child will come to you with any worries that might emerge from play time and discussions with friends.