Cancer can be confusing and finding the right words to help a child comprehend such a difficult disease can be a maze. Read on for a few things that might come handy if you're dealing with cancer and trying to help the children cope. It was E B White who said, “Anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time. You have to write up not down. Children are demanding. They are the most attentive, eager, curious, observant, sensitive, quick and generally congenial readers on the earth.”
This applied to the child’s development can include ongoing open dialogue, two-way communication, and just plain happiness. Responsible parenting hopes to create memories and not mere expectations, create independent individuals and not dependent subjects, and create relationships that far outweigh human limitations. The bottom-line is, it is important to talk to your child through your cancer journey so they feel a sense of belonging, security and self-confidence. And the memory of a traumatic experience can be channelized to make them stronger. Take a look at these resources of literature that might help understand your child better and give you a starting point for honest conversations that can give your family the comfort and insight you need.
Ages 4 - 8
- Our Mom has Cancer, Abigail Ackerman
Abigail and Adrienne are two sisters who attempt to write about their mother’s cancer diagnosis in order to make sense of what they do not understand. Mom Has Cancer is a humorous, honest, and delightful illustration of the passage of time while the mother goes through treatment for breast cancer. Written from the children’s perspective, the tone is basic, clear and endearing despite circumstances that are confusing and painful.
- Nowhere Hair, Sue Glader
Nowhere Hair is written in a sing-song fashion for children to understand cancer and its treatment. It addresses fear, sadness, being silly, and wearing crazy hats in an attempt to start the conversation and the process of healing.
- The Next Place, Warren Hanson
The Next Place is a calm and reassuring poem on passing on into an afterlife free from mortal pain and constraints. Written in verse form, it bears a hopeful, comforting and compassionate view on death and the grieving process.
- Today’s the Day
6-year old Julie decides to donate her hair to make wigs for children with cancer who lose their hair to chemotherapy.
- The Rainbow Feelings of Cancer, Carrie Martin
A 7-year old girl, Carrie doodles her emotions and thought life when her mother is diagnosed with colon cancer. This sparks off heart-warming conversations between mother and child encouraging openness between patients, children in the family, and other caregivers.
- Butterfly Kisses and Wishes on Wings: When someone you love has cancer… a hopeful, helpful book for kids, Ellen McVicker
A book to educate children about medical and emotional aspects of a diagnosis of cancer in the family, it reflects just how resilient children can be as they face fears of a loved one fighting with a deadly disease.
- Our Family Has Cancer, too!, Christine Clifford Beckwith
Tim and his younger sibling discover that their mother is diagnosed with cancer and pay a visit to the hospital to learn about chemotherapy and radiation. It is an interactive graphic novel book for kids and their families that encourages dialogue between parents and children to help cope.
Teen and Y-A
- You Are Not Alone: Teens Talk About Life
This book offers well-reasoned and reassuring voices from teens who grapple with loss. It resonates with a certain fraternity of teens who have been through similar experiences of helplessness, isolation, illness, suicidal thoughts and such like.
- Tiger Eyes, Judy Blume
15-year old girl struggles with the sudden death of her father and works to regain her own sense of strength after a tumultuous period of grief, loss, and change.
- The Fault in Our Stars, John Green
With a slightly philosophical bent of mind John Green writes about a young cancer fighter meeting a cancer survivor dealing with complex adolescent themes, love, life, death, humor and courage.
Keep the conversation going and put down other must-reads in our community section. Thanks for reading!