I was driving this morning and listening to my Sirius/XM radio to Doctor Radio which is a show that has various doctors host segments of their specialty - oncology, pediatrics, psychology, etc. And the segment that was on as I was driving Gabriella to school and continuing on my ride back home was a show about kids hosted by psychologists who work with kids and families to achieve emotional well being when a parent has cancer or another chronic illness. Right up my alley! All hosts encourage their listeners to call in and share anything or ask questions pertinent to the topic (some sort of super nurturing breed of very welcoming doctors, they are). So I was all alone in my car on the way to the supermarket and I called in. I asked them if I should tell my kids at 3 and 5 years of age that their father has cancer, even though nothing acute and traumatic is occurring with it at the time. I guess Tom's and my take on the topic has been to not broadcast this cancer thing- and further on my own perspective: I think this because if nothing of note is happening right now, I don't need to broach the subject with these two immature minds that I have. (Especially after my Mother Mary situation which enlightened me to my shortcoming in age appropriate explanations)
So all three docs on the line told me yes, I should tell them and explained to me different resources, approaches and reasons as to why it is a good idea. Some of what I remember is that -we underestimate youth's ability to cope with things, and if we tell them now they will have the knowledge in their bank when it it comes up in the future. She equated it to a parent having diabetes - you would tell the child because it is a part of their life, they'll take medicine daily and make dietary choices because of their disease. In the same respect for us, if daddy goes for a test, it is because he needs to, it is part of his life. I recently watched a TV special on sexual behaviours in youth, and the research shows that the more information a kid has and the younger the kid is that hears it all, the less likely they will be to engage in teen sex. I am taking a similar conclusion from what these experts said - maybe, the more information my kids have about cancer, the better equipped they will be to deal with it emotionally if they need to.
We adults fear and dread the big CA, but kids don't because they haven't seen what it can do yet - the stigma isn't there in a conversation about cancer unless a parent injects their turmoil into their words and tone. If I am able to have a non-emotional conversation with them about how papa has cancer, I think they can come away from it in good standing. The doc also mentioned that if years from now, papa relapses and the kids have more advanced critical thinking skills that they gain with age, they may wonder and feel left out at the fact that no one has ever told them all this time. I also hypothesized that if they have this knowledge in their arsenal for a couple years, it may lessen the likelihood of them blaming it on themselves, as children seem to do with any tragedy, it's my fault. Because they know it has been around for a while, really before they were born, they may deduce that it can't possibly be their fault. I believe that the very kind and knowledgeable woman I was speaking with on the air is Dr. Paula Rauch who wrote a book called Raising an Emotionally Healthy Child When a Parent is Sick, and she directs a center out of Harvard called PACT- Parenting at a Challenging Time- who knew there were so many resources for this situation!
I guess life shouldn't be a secret and there are lots of different "normals" in people's lives - we have a life with Cancer playing a big role and it should be out in the open to teach our kids that nothing is un-talk-about-able (as they said on the radio). Dr. Rauch (I believe) also said that her mantra is "no one should worry alone".
So wish me luck!- one, that I will convey this with an even tone void of pain or fright, and two, that I will start and end this at the kindergarten level. (which one of those is harder??)