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On the last track we discussed compartmentalizing cancer thoughts. . Because obsessive thinking rarely solves any problems and it drains clients, this track offers strategies for avoiding obsessive thinking through compartmentalization.
On this track we will discuss supporting the children.
This track includes four guidelines for helping your clients as parents dealing with children who are trying to cope with cancer in the family or of a friend or loved one. The four guidelines for supporting children are preparing to tell the children, talking to children about cancer, evaluating reactions, and discussing cancer with multiple children.
Although the examples in these tracks are limited, the guidelines can essentially be applied to any relationship affected by cancer. Your client may not be able to use all of these suggestions, but as you listen you can decide which techniques can benefit your client.
4 Guideline to Support Children
Guideline #1 - Preparing to Tell the Children
I stated to Greg and Melinda, “You might consider evaluating your own feelings about the illness before discussing it with Melinda. The hardest part about talking with your children is tolerating your own feelings while you tell them. No matter how you tell them or how they react, you will still hurt for them. The more comfortable you are with your emotions, the easier it will be to tell them. One way to reduce some of the pain is to learn more about helping. The more equipped you feel to support them, the less pain you will all experience.”
Guideline #2 - Talking to Children about Cancer
Sandy stated, “We came up with, ‘What does cancer mean to you? How does someone get cancer? What do you think happens when someone gets cancer? And we also thought we might ask her if she remembers when Greg’s friend Ray had cancer.”
Another discussion strategy I suggested to Greg and Sandy was to be honest and realistic. I stated, “Children like Melinda can handle even the worst news surprisingly well, if you tell it to them in ways they can comprehend. But if you don’t tell them what is happening, children have a way of imagining the situation as worse than it is. For example, Melinda might think Heidi is dying when in fact she is simply recovering from chemotherapy. In that way, misinformation of misunderstandings can be more frightening and confusing to children than the truth.
Sandy asked, “What do we tell Melinda if we find out that Heidi is dying?” How might you have responded to Sandy? I stated, “No matter what happens, be realistic. You can explain the essential facts without sharing every gory detail. If the patient has only a short time left or months of treatment ahead, don’t tell Melinda that everything will be fine. Instead, consider that a cue to begin preparing her for what lies ahead.”
Guideline #3 - Evaluating Reactions
Guideline #4 - Discussing Cancer with Multiple Children
Think of your client. Might he or she benefit from the interventions for children coping with the cancer of a loved one as described on this track? How might you apply these interventions in your practice?
On this track we have discussed supporting the children. This track includes four guidelines for helping your clients as parents dealing with children who are trying to cope with cancer in the family or of a friend or loved one. The four guidelines for supporting children are preparing to tell the children, talking to children about cancer, evaluating reactions, and discussing cancer with multiple children.
On the next track we will discuss techniques for child affect integration. The two techniques on this track are storytelling and playing, and drawing.
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