We asked Spry’s Most Inspiring Mother award winner Mindy Kiepke to offer tips for helping kids navigate a parent’s cancer diagnosis. After all, Mindy had five young daughters when she faced breast cancer. Here are her suggestions for making a difficult situation a little bit easier for the whole family.
Share the facts. Wait until you know your exact prognosis before sharing it with your children. They will have enough to worry about once they get all the facts. When you do have a good handle on what you're facing, be honest with your children. They will know something is going on and they will find comfort in knowing they are a part of "the loop."
Give them a voice. Be sensitive to your child's needs in experiencing your treatment and surgeries. Some children will feel more secure being by your side as much as possible and helping with your care, while others will feel uncomfortable with this. Be upfront and include them in the decision of where they'll be most comfortable. With my five children, they each responded differently and were given the option of where they wanted to be when I was getting treatment.
Stay normal. Do your best to maintain your kids’ normal routines. This will most likely require outside help as you will be laid up, so be willing to ask for that help. People want to give it, and your kids will need it! It will help their emotional stability to keep as much of their lives predictable when this area can feel so out of control.
Ask the important questions. Regularly ask how your child feels about your cancer. Kids often stuff their emotions during times of crises, and they will need opportunities to talk and process what is going on. It is also helpful to ask a significant adult — someone outside of the family, like an friend or teacher — to help keep emotionally connected with your child during your treatment. Having a support system in place for your kids is hugely helpful. Many times children feel they are able to let down more with those not directly involved in the crisis.
Make the moments count! Look at this time as an opportunity to really connect with your kids and spend quality time with them. Experiences like this strip all of our hearts of the daily life distractions and allow us to focus on what really matters. Although such an intensely difficult time, our family made some of our best memories of relational closeness during our “cancer year.