How to help children cope with a parental brain tumour diagnosis

How to help children cope with a parental brain tumour diagnosis


Fri 05 February

To mark Children's Mental Health Week, we’re sharing advice for parents on how to help children cope with a parental brain tumour diagnosis.

Telling your child that one of their parents has a brain tumour is something no parent can be prepared for. And if you’re in this position, you might not know what to say, or how to help them process the news. But there are things you can do to make sure your child feel supported, and understand what is happening in your family.

 

Be open and honest

 

You might feel like you want to protect your child by shielding them from the realities of the diagnosis, likewise you might want to approach the conversation with honesty so they have all the information they need to understand what is happening.

 

The truth is that there is no right or wrong way to say it, apart from that you do need to share something with your child. Although your instinct might be to protect them, children are often intuitive and can tell when things are wrong. Sharing the diagnosis with them will help them cope better, especially as the illness progresses and the parent goes through treatment. If they feel they can have open and honest conversations with their parents, they will be able to better process what is happening. If you don’t talk openly you run the risk of making your child feel frightened and anxious because they don’t know what’s going on.

 

Reassure them

 

Children, particularly those who are young, often worry about the cause of cancer. Make it really clear that they can’t catch it, and that it hasn’t happened as a result of anything they have done. It’s also important to reassure them that they will always be cared for and that they can ask questions whenever they want and talk to you about how they feel.

 

Involve their school

 

It’s important that you speak to your child’s school about the illness. That way they can keep an eye out for your child and let you know if they start exhibiting unusual behaviours. This better equips the teachers to help your child cope in the school environment, and gives them context as to why they may seem more troubled than normal.

 

If your child is older, they may want to keep the information private, but teachers can help them to open up to others if they want to share what they’re going through with friends, but don’t know how.

 

Spend quality time together

 

Although it can be difficult for life to feel ‘normal’ after a brain tumour diagnosis, spending time together as a family, in a way that your child is used to, is important. For example, if you usually spend Saturday nights watching a film together as a family, don’t stop. Keeping things settled at home will help, and spending quality time together as a family in a relaxed setting might encourage your child to ask questions about your diagnosis that they might not otherwise feel comfortable to ask.

 

Try to stick to a routine

 

This might not be possible all the time, but children are comfortable with routines so try and stick to them. If they’ve always done the dishes after dinner, don’t stop that just because of a parental diagnosis. This continuation of the status quo will help children feel safe at home and be less anxious that everything has changed too quickly.

 

Lean on resources

 

There are some great books and tv shows that can help your child understand what is happening. Search them out and add them to your reading rotation (if your children are young) as this can help them to understand what is happening in a way that makes sense to them. For older children, YouTube is a good source of information with many peer-created videos that may make them feel less alone.
 

Here at YBTC we have a library of books for a range of ages that we are happy to share with any children – young and old – that need a bit of extra support. Simply get in touch with us on support@yorksbtc.org.uk and we can send them out.
 

Seek more support

 

If you feel like your child needs it, you can access extra support. Here at Yorkshire’s Brain Tumour Charity we are able to provide free counselling to children and young adults who have been affected by a parental brain tumour diagnosis. Talking to someone impartial can help them to get all their thoughts and feelings out, especially those they might not feel comfortable sharing with their parents.

 

Talking to your child about a brain tumour diagnosis is never easy, but we hope that by being open and honest, and following some of these tips, you are able to move forward as a family in the best way possible for everyone. 

 

If you need any support, we’re here for you. Please get in touch with us on 0113 340 0111 or email support@yorksbtc.org.uk.

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