Thursday, 22 July 2010

How the children coped.....

I have to say that I am proud of the way that my children coped with fact that I had cancer. Not only the fact that I was very ill and that worry that I may die but all the subsiquent disruption they had in their lives whilst both Tracey and I were away in Basingstoke. In the end they did very well and showed just how strong kids are, their school work didnt suffer and they didnt appear to have been too traumatized by what they had been through. So I wanted to share with you how we approached the whole subject in the hope it may help. I realize that every family is different and each will deal with things in their own way but hopefully we can provide just a few ideas that anyone in the same predicament can consider.

Breaking the news.....
This was probably the hardest thing to do as at this point we were still very traumatised ourselves and our knowledge of the condition and the treatment that I was to undergo was very small. Initially in the first few days we just told them that Dad wasnt well and tried to have our conversations when they were not in the room. Inevitably this lead to conversations having to be cut short and bits being overheard. It didnt take us long to realise that they were not stupid and needed to know the truth. I know my eldest (13) had a good idea what was going on already and had even discussed it with her school freinds. So we decided they needed to know the truth. We sat and told them everything we could and read some great books that we were given by MacMillan together. I will never forget sat reading "When Mum or Dad has Cancer by Ann Couldrick" to the children on the sofa. Jess under one arm Chloe under the other. It covered every eventuality and there were a lot of tears that night but at least they were prepared for every outcome. That I felt was important.

We then made sure that they knew what was going to happen when both Tracey and I went up to Basingstoke for my MOAS. We had arranged for my Aunt to come and stay at the house with the children. That way they would be in their usual surroundings,with their toys and freinds nearby and it would limit the dissruption they were already experiencing with both Mum and Dad not being there. We also gave them jobs to do whist we were away so they could help out in their own way. I have to say I think they had a great time in the end, getting involved with preparing meals, doing the cleaning and generally helping to run the house. And as you can imagine they were pretty spoilt along the way with visitors coming in and out and treating them!

We also made sure that we asked them if they had any questions about what was going to happen at regular intervals. Usually this was met with a "no" but it opened the way for them to be able to feel that they could approach us about anything and more often or not the questions would come when you least expected it, sat eating a meal together or watching TV. Completely unprompted and out of the blue but that was a good thing, just what we wanted. We also taught them that it was OK to cry if they felt upset and not to worry about upsetting mum or dad as holding these emotions in was a bad thing and they needed to be let out.

Whist Tracey and I were away we had planned to do a daily video call with them using Skype however we couldnt use the broadband at the hospital on the netbook and a Dongle wasnt fast enough. So we made sure we phoned them every night and kept in touch using e-mails. Initially I wasnt well enough to make the calls and Tracey kept them up to date with progress. However I remember very well the first time that I called them, the squeels of delight when they heard my voice even roused Ron in the bed opposite me!
They also made the trip to Basingstoke every weekend. Initially they just visited Tracey at the flat as I was not well enough and then later on I was able to meet them off of the ward in communal areas.

So to summarise, the lessons we learnt were-
1. Be honest, kids are not stupid, they know when things are not right. Tell them the truth (within reason) so they dont worry and feel that they cant talk to you.
2. Try to limit the dissruption as much as possible. Keep them in their normal routine.
3. Encourage them to ask questions and share your emotions together.
4. Dont be afraid to seek support and advice from people like MacMillan or Cancer reasearch.
5.Offer them all the love and support you can. Dont forget that they are there because you are so busy dealing with your own emotions.

We wouldnt have been able to get the children through this without all the help and support we recieved from our family and freinds. So a big thank you to Mum and Dad, Auntie Joyce, my brother Stephen and his wife Lisa, Auntie Tina and Uncle Paul and everyone else who helped out along the way.

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