Teaching children about cancer: Older Children

We have stated in several places that this book is intended for children between the ages of two and six.  However, parents are already asking us if they can use Someone I Love Is Sick with older children.  There is certainly no reason why you should not use this book with younger school-age children, especially if you have more than one child and you are talking to your children together in a family discussion.  Just remember that all discussions with children need to provide information at the level that the youngest child in the group can understand.  There is a bigger problem in giving young kids too much or too complex information than in giving older children information that is too simple.

However, it is important to avoid talking to or treating an older child like he or she is much younger.  All parents have heard “Don’t treat me like a baby!” from their maturing children.  So it might be useful to introduce this book to older children as something that you are using with younger brothers and sisters.  You can let them know that you respect their maturity and ability to understand complex issues, but you want them to know what their younger siblings are being told, just in case those younger children come to them with questions.

If you use Someone I Love Is Sick with older children, you should expect more detailed questions and perhaps some stated fears or concerns that would be unlikely to be thought of by younger children.  Questions about chemotherapy or hospitalization, worries about their own health or the health of other family members, fears about death are all more common in school age children than in preschoolers.  So be prepared to elaborate on the simple statements included in Someone I Love Is Sick.

There are quite a few good books, workbooks and pamphlets to help older children and teens cope with cancer in the family.  Click here to visit the “Resources” page where you will find an abbreviated list of books as well as a downloadable list of many materials to help children when families are dealing with adult cancer.