Q. This is a hard time of year for us as my wife has cancer. Would you recommend any books about talking to and doing the best for our kids?

A.

When coping with a cancer diagnosis, families often experience a variety of changes and adjustments during the holidays and other significant events. Discussing and preparing for these changes with your children can open up dialogue, elicit questions and help you to understand what your child is feeling. Although certain rituals or customs may change, it can also be helpful to honor old traditions as a way of maintaining a sense of normalcy for your children. Remember that cancer doesn’t have to be the focus of the holidays, and you have discretion over how much room cancer gets during your celebration.

Books can be helpful tools or supplements to reinforce language and ideas to help children cope with a parent’s cancer diagnosis, but should not replace a conversation. The holidays may be an opportunity to have such discussions, as you are likely joining together as a family to reflect on the past year and to make plans for the year ahead.

When selecting literature to help you talk to your children, consider your child’s age, developmental stage and maturity level. Being honest allows children of any age an important opportunity to ask questions and express how they feel. You may not have all the answers, but you can remind your child that you will always be available for them to ask.

For more information about coping with the holidays and communicating with children about cancer, read CancerCare’s Coping with Cancer During the Holidays and Helping Children When a Family Member Has Cancer, or review the following books to help you navigate these conversations:

  • How to Help Children Through a Parent’s Serious Illness by Kathleen McCue and Ron Bonn (St. Martin’s Press: 1994)
  • Helping your Children Cope with your Cancer by Peter Vandernoot (Hatherleigh Press: 2006)
  • When a Parent Has Cancer : A Guide to Caring for Your Children by Wendy Schlessel Harpham, MD (Harper Collins: 2004)