Where to find support groups for children?

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Question from Gaia: Are support groups for children of breast cancer patients a good idea? How would I find one?
Answers - Paula K. Rauch, M.D. In the greater Boston area where I practice, there are opportunities for children whose parents have cancer to meet. Our experience has been that a surprisingly small number of children choose to attend these groups. It seems that most children don't identify themselves as being children of mothers with breast cancer; they identify themselves as being boys who like baseball, girls who like gymnastics, or kids who like to swim. No matter how interesting, engaging and wonderful the activities are at these groups, most kids are reluctant to give up after school or weekend time. Our experience has been that parents are much more eager to meet with each other and talk about their experiences as parents than kids are interested in attending support groups. But certainly there's no one-size-fits-all. Whatever the resources are in your community, you may be able to access them by contacting the nearest large cancer center and asking an oncology social worker about what is available.
Tamara Shulman, Ph.D., FAACP An alternative to involving the child in a support group is sharing with your children the information that you are part of a support group for other women with breast cancer and that many of them have children around the ages of your own children. I think this can be useful in letting children know that other children are experiencing this because it's not something that kids typically talk about. They may confide in close friends, or they may not. They may feel they're the only child whose mother has breast cancer so it can sometimes be reassuring for the child to know they're not the only one and that there is a possibility of talking with other people the way their mom does, if that would be helpful. It also puts the idea forward that people can get support and help with problems by talking about them with other people, which is indirectly modeled for the children when the parents tell them they're getting support themselves. It's a non-pressure way to let the kids know they can get support if they need it, and that other kids are going through this as well.

The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called Talking With Kids about Breast Cancer featured Paula Rauch, M.D. and Tamara Shulman, Ph.D., F.A.A.C.P. answering your questions about specific ways to support your kids while you undergo treatment, and different communication strategies for helping your kids to feel secure during a time of uncertainty.

Editor's Note: This conference took place in May 2006.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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