Communicate situation to kids, grandkids?

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Question from Maryanne: Fortunately my kids are grown, but what should I be aware of so I can help them and my grandkids (8 and 13) deal with Grandma having breast cancer? We see them at least every week, so it's not something I can just pretend isn't happening.
Answers - Paula K. Rauch, M.D. The same open communication that I would encourage between parents and children about a parent's cancer, I would encourage with respect to a grandmother's breast cancer. I do think your children need to be in the position to set the tone for the conversation they wish to have with their own children about your breast cancer. You can let your adult children know that you'd be comfortable answering any questions from your grandchildren, or facilitating conversation about it. But you don't want to set up tension between you and your adult children about how much and when to share information. Usually when your relationship is comfortable with your adult children and you're comfortable with them, they'll be the ones who want to have the first conversation with their own children and you can support those interactions. Your adult children will be in the best position to notice if their own children are having difficulties of any sort, including having worries, difficulties sleeping, problems at school, etc. My experience is that if the adult children are handling a grandmother's cancer with some comfort, the grandchildren will too.
Tamara Shulman, Ph.D., FAACP With a parent, the children are seeing the parent daily and there is lot of contact. With grandchildren, the kids may feel they want to help and contribute something. If there is that kind of concern and interest on the part of the grandchildren, I think a simple suggestion that a drawing they've done might be cheerful for Grandma to hang in her room, or a story about what the child is involved in, or a phone call from the child about their baseball game or a movie they just saw—anything at all can be quite helpful in allowing the child to feel they can be connected with their grandmother in between their weekly visits at a time when they may be more concerned about her than usual.

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 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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