Supporting Your Children When a Sibling Has Cancer

Grasping cancer isn’t easy for any of us, especially those who live with cancer in their families. For parents, it can be difficult to adequately explain childhood cancer to kids who have a sibling diagnosed with cancer and developing the understanding that cancer isn’t an individual’s diagnosis, but one that affects the entire family. When you’re struggling to find the right words to talk to your children about a sibling’s childhood cancer, let this be a resource to help you.

Explaining Cancer

Talking about cancer is tough enough for adults, but it’s difficult to explain cancer to little ones in a way that helps them understand what is happening. Cancer is a disease that affects the body in different ways. Talking about the symptoms their brother or sister are experiencing can help them better understand what is happening with their sibling. Younger children often fear that cancer is contagious, much like a common cold, but little myths like these that children can create in their minds are best handled up front so that everyone knows exactly what cancer is and how it works. It’s not easy to get into details, but as a parent, deciding how much information your child can properly handle and digest depends on age and maturity.

Set Up a Support System

Beyond what you can do at home, you can create a support system for siblings within extended family and at schools. Talk with family members about how to approach the issue with the children. For many families, it’s about providing extra attention to your children to help them cope and express emotions. School counselors and teachers should also be aware of the situation to provide additional support while the children are at school. Other resources, like the hospital social worker, can provide further guidance and information about how to help children of all ages who have a sibling living with cancer.

The Family Unit Becomes Stronger

Kids will be kids, but it’s important they understand how a sibling’s diagnosis will affect the entire family. Having patience, showing extra care to one another, and being ready to help out in any way possible are all ways that siblings can help the family throughout the process. As a parent, you might not be able to give as much attention to all of your children, and this is okay. What is most important is making sure your children all know what is happening, and why so much attention is going to one child. Taking time to show appreciation and love for every child can help them recognize the change in family dynamic doesn’t mean they’re any less important or that it is permanent.

Our mission is to raise funds for a research program, but we also want to provide resources for families who are experiencing childhood cancer themselves. As an organization founded in response to personal experience, we understand just how important it is for families to have good resources available for them.

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