Last night I delivered a keynote address -- Happiness in a Storm: Embracing Life. Since it was a local event, I enjoyed the honor of having my daughter, Rebecca, introduce me. How cool is that?
My personal approach to helping my children -- only 1, 3, and 5 years old when I was diagnosed -- was to keep the lines of communication open and to tell the truth. Always.
Healthy Survivors keep in mind their children's three primary needs:*
- satisfaction of their basic physical and emotional needs
- an understanding on their level about what is happening
- reassurance that they will be cared for no matter what happens to the ill parent
You can read a column from Oncology Times in which I simulate an interview with my three now-grown children: "Conversation 2008."
Children learn from everything they see and do. Knowing this, parents can choose to use the challenges of family illness as constructively as possible. Unwanted life circumstances can become platforms for teaching children the values, lessons, skills and outlook you'd want to teach them had you never been sick a day in your life.
The greatest gift we can give children is not protection from the world, but the confidence and tools to cope and grow with all that life has to offer.