Q. I am seeking a support group for children under age 12 whose single mother is in stage 4 cancer. Please provide any available options.
Our Connecticut office currently offers a support group Crafting Ways to Cope for Children Who Have a Parent With Cancer. This group is for children ages 5 to 12 who have a parent with cancer. The group is led by an oncology social worker and offers craft activities as a way to help children ask questions, express feelings and share concerns about their parents.
Otherwise, you probably want to check with the mother’s treatment center to see if they provide a children’s support group. You can also contact your local affiliate of Cancer Support Community in order to get more information about what type of children’s program they offer.
CancerCare provides a number of publications, including Helping Children Understand Cancer: Talking to Your Kids About Your Diagnosis that address helping children who have a family member with cancer. Communication is the number one priority, since even young children can often sense when something is wrong, and if no one explains what is happening, will often imagine something worse than it really is, or even blame themselves. How and how much is communicated depends on the child’s unique personality, but providing an ongoing chance for them to express themselves, asking questions and sharing their feelings, is helpful for children of all ages.
Finally, it’s important to let children know that even though some other things around the house are probably going to be different for a while, that the child’s parents/grandparents/family members love for them hasn’t changed a bit.