Four of the most challenging pages I've ever written were published in the introductory material to When a Parent has Cancer. A Guide to Caring for your Children (WAPHC).
In response to people concerned about children whose parents choose to keep the parent's illness a secret, I wrote "Important Message to Parents, Friends, and Extended Family."
First I outline some of the challenges:
- You can't make the decisions or take charge.
- You fear pulling back too soon, leaving the children to suffer unnecessarily.
- You fear pushing too much and causing harm.
Then I offer suggestions, such as...
- Premising all your words and actions on your belief that the parents don't intend any harm and are in control of how to help their children.
- Staying alert of windows of opportunity to share your concerns.
- Seeing if the parents' close friends, clergy or healthcare team can pursue your concerns.
If the parents still prefer to keep the children in the dark about the illness, step back, be understanding, and help in whatever way the family requests. You are not abandoning the children; you are showing them that you respect their family...Recognizing and respecting your limits in their lives in one of the ultimate expressions of love. [WAPHC, p. xx]