●Determine the best way to share information: family meeting (if that’s already part of your routine, keep it going), carpool rides (captive audience and no eye contact required), in a notebook where teens write questions and you respond.
●Be honest: that way, your teen won’t fear that you’re hiding bad news.
●But: You don’t have to share every little thing. You may not want to tell your child the degree of pain a parent is in, for example, unless absolutely necessary.
●When you deliver new medical bulletins, follow up the next day: “That stuff I told you about the surgery: too much information, not enough? Any questions?”
●If your teens say they really don’t want to know anything but you think they should, try discussing cancer matters when the kids are nearby. They’re probably eavesdropping.
●Designate a go-to adult in case Mom and Dad aren’t around for questions.
●Alert your child’s school. Your teen’s academic performance may become erratic. Teachers can keep an eye out and let you know if things slide too far.
●If troubling behavior arises, you might suggest that your teen see a therapist. But recognize that you can’t force your child to go. Try visiting a couple of candidates and let your teen choose.
Several organizations offer help focused on teens with cancer in the family:
Cancer Support Community runs Group Loop , a Web site where teens affected by the disease can connect.
Life with Cancer , based in Fairfax, offers programs for teens facing a parent’s cancer and those who have lost a parent to the disease.
MedStar Georgetown University Hospital’s Lombardi Cancer Center offers a KidTalk program, in which a patient with children younger than 18 can meet with an oncology social worker to discuss how to help the kids cope.
The Marjorie E. Korff PACT (Parenting At a Challenging Time) Program , run by Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, provides online resources and expert guidance about supporting kids when a parent has cancer.
Camp Kesem is a free, week-long overnight summer camp for kids age 6 to 16 who have been affected by a parent’s cancer. The 54 branches are organized by local university students. In 2014, camps will be offered by George Washington University, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Richmond, the University of Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth University.