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Helping Children Cope

June 10, 2008 - 7:30am
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Helping Children Cope

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Children react to illness in a variety of ways. Some feel angry at their mothers for becoming ill. Others are frightened. Still others worry that they might have caused the illness.

Although you may be tempted to protect your children by not telling them about your operation or the disease that caused it, it's usually better to be honest. Even young children sense when something is wrong. Preschool children often feel deserted when their mother goes to the hospital. And if she returns feeling weak or depressed, they may become frightened. Adolescents sometimes suddenly change their behavior because they fear their mother's illness will keep them from maintaining the independence they have begun to enjoy. If you can avoid imposing too much responsibility on your teenage children, and if you share some of your feelings with them, you may be able to keep their problems to a minimum.

It is a good idea to tell your children the truth as simply and positively as possible. Be careful not to burden them with any more information than is necessary. Encourage their questions, and answer those questions honestly. You will probably find that talking helps your children to accept your illness and the temporary disruption it causes. A booklet that may be helpful to you is called When Some In Your Family Has Cancer . It is written for young people who have a parent or sibling with cancer and is available from the National Cancer Institute.

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