I am no expert and I can only speak from my own experiences about how hard it is for kids to cope with watching a parent with cancer. When I was diagnosed, my youngest was in year 4, a child just started high school, another in high school and the eldest was a young adult.
In my youngest daughters school, they were so helpful, they prayed, they raised money for cancer council. They understood my daughter sometimes just needed to cry. They encouraged her to take days off school when I was well to just have some time together. It was great.
The high school wasn’t so good, I had to argue to get extensions for my kids with assignments. I had to get permission from the school to let them have some time with me. This bugged me as at the time I was not expected to live too long. The school did nothing. As my medical bills got higher and higher, the primary school waved fees and used their school fund to pay for my daughters books, excursions uniforms. The high school did nothing. I had a sad situation where I couldn’t afford to pay for things so had to organise to pay of the school levy and book fees etc. I am talking about a state school here, not a private school. I sought help to pay for bills but couldn’t get any help. I was lucky that I had some wonderful friends and family who did fundraising for the medical bills, helped with food and with travel for my kids to and from sporting or other excursions.
This was embarrassing to my kids. This had a huge effect on their self-worth. Kids who are facing the loss of a parent are already emotionally fragile, that cannot be helped. But schools and other organisations can make things easier by helping out, so that the kids don’t have to go with out or feel like a charity case.
My youngest is still in high school money is still tight as some of my medications are not on the PBS. We don’t live an extravagant lifestyle she misses out on somethings because of money. But the worst thing I have found is that she has come across other kids who make fun of her. I told her about Dolly Parton, and “Coat of Many Colours”.
I said that this song made me feel strong and brave when I was a child and had kids make fun of me because we were poor blacks and all the other names.
But I guess the song doesn’t translate into today and the me generation or millennials or whatever 16 year olds are. My daughter has cried to me and with me, about comments that she has faced. Who says to another kid that “If your mum died would you have more money” another one was “How long is your mum going to do this? hasn’t she been cured yet?” “I don’t believe your mum is sick, she should have died”
I was rather amazed that kids could say that. I spoke to a youth counselor about it and found that it is not uncommon. Kids have a sympathy but if something is too long they lose it and think it should be a problem solved.
Wow, so how many kids are going through extra crap that they are not telling their parents? Can the cancer counselling services deal with this? How do you as a parent make the world a better place for your child when you don’t know how to deal with the issues?
As I said I spoke to a youth mental health professional about this. I asked what I as a parent can do and what my child should do. I looked at the websites and sought information, everything seems to be directed at breast cancer. That shits me, I can’t relate to breast cancer and nor can my kids. They have a mum with a brain cancer and a tumor in her jaw.
I found the booklet “when your parent has cancer” not too bad. You can go to CANTEEN, but from the experience of one of my girls, she found it hard as she was in a group with teens who had cancer and she as she said, felt like a fake. She felt that they were a priority and that she shouldn’t be there. Maybe they should have put her with kids who had parents with cancer. She did make friend and sad to say actually has had some die. That was not something I wanted for my child.
Make sure that your child has someone safe to talk to, someone who they can share their feelings of anger and frustration. It is natural for them to be angry at the world and at you. set aside some time to spend with each child and do something as a family on a regular basis. I am not talking going to theme parks, I mean sitting in the backyard or having a picnic, playing touch at the park. Just do some family things. Listen to them. even though you are cranky and facing your own shit. listen and hear what they say.
Don’t think seeing a counselor is a bad thing, it is good for you and your kids. Use whatever help is out there for you.