Q. How can I help my child understand her grandfather has cancer?
A. Parents should explain cancer to children on a level they can understand, and a number of books cater to a variety of age ranges to help children cope with a family member's illness. Usually children up to age 8 have one level of understanding, 8 to 12 can handle more, and an adolescent even more specific information, says Jacqueline Wands, senior director of patient and family services for the Suffolk County chapter of the American Cancer Society.
You can visit cancer.org, which has a variety of advice to help children deal with cancer in its various stages. There's also a 24-hour, seven-day- a-week cancer information line - 800-227-2345 - where a person can help if something comes up suddenly, Wands says.
Some book suggestions for elementary school children include "Cancer in the Family: Helping Children Cope With a Parent's Illness" and "Because Someone I Love Has Cancer," all suggested by Gail Probst, director of cancer services for Huntington Hospital. Wands suggests Web sites for teens, including kidskonnected.org and cancerreallysucks.org. She advocates talking to a social worker at the facility where your family member was diagnosed to ask about support groups for children.
The Cancer Center at Stony Brook runs a free support group for kids who have parents or grandparents with cancer from 6 to 7:30 p.m. the first Thursday of every month. Check your local hospital for similar programs.
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