When prostate cancer strikes it naturally causes emotions that bombard a man such emotions as anger denial fear anxiety and depression. These same emotions will affect his family as well. Especially affected will be the children of the man who has a prostate cancer diagnosis.
If very young children may not understand the consequences of the disease but they will be sensitive to the home atmosphere and their parents’ expressions and moods. Even children as young as eighteen months have the capacity to realize something is wrong. Elementary school age children will realize that their parents seem different; therefore they feel fear confusion stress and anger too. They will watch their parents and see such obvious changes in the household like their father working less and visiting the doctor more often. Even their mother has changed seeming distant and less patient with them. One more difference will be noticed too “their parents no longer pay them as much attention. Because of this children may not only grow more demanding and clinging but also may act out by misbehaving.
Teenagers may react with conflicting emotions as well. Teens may grow increasingly angry and experience guilt as they try to become independent of their parents. If the anger and guilt continues to grow they may also act out getting into trouble at school and in public. No matter the child’s age each child may feel abandoned despite the assurances of their parents.
Therefore parents must explain in terms children can understand as they tell them about the cancer. For example parents will use such words as “doctor” for urologist and “medicine” for radiation therapy. However if the child is old enough to comprehend parents can use the correct terminology. Furthermore parents must also encourage children to ask questions and/or express their emotions too. If a child asks a question that parents cannot answer parents should affirm they will discover the answers for them. Prostate cancer should never become a forbidden subject in the home.
Moreover parents need to remember that children especially teenagers may want to talk to others who are in their lives. Since the parents want their children to become at ease in discussing the subject parents may tell family members coaches teachers and religious leaders about the prostate cancer. In this way the other adults in their children’s lives can help by listening to teenagers and younger children as they freely talk about their emotions and fears concerning the disease. This will especially be helpful if children have a difficult time talking directly to the parents.
However parents need to continue assuring their children of several factors: The child did not cause the father to get cancer “nothing the child thought said or did caused it; cancer is not “catching” and that others in the family will not get it just because dad has it; the cancer does not necessarily mean the parent will die from it and that many people can still live a long time with cancer; and prostate cancer research is discovering better ways of treating cancer.
Tip Of The Week: Living with prostate cancer is never a happy event for any family. However parents can make this time more comfortable for their children by being honest about the cancer discussing it with their children letting their children freely talk about it and ask questions and continue to let their children be just what they are “children. Parents can include the children in allowing them to participate in the parents’ lives such as drawing pictures or washing dishes. Older children can help as well. Parents can ask them to put up groceries dust the furniture or take phone messages etc. These are all activities which may seem very simple yet they might just help younger and older children still feel part of a family.