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Books that help explain cancer to kids

Posted Sep 06 2012 2:56pm
September 6, 2012 - Posted by tamilb

Three books to help open conversations with you and your little ones

With “Pinktober” around the corner, there is a lot of emphasis on survivors. But sometimes I think little ones are often kept out of the loop. It’s hard for us, but as we know, our children depend on us and may not understand why Mommy isn’t feeling well or has no hair.

When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, my daughter Chrissy was just three years old. I had no idea how to talk to her about it and just did the best I could. Luckily she didn’t freak out when she saw me bald. Chrissy just laughed and said I looked like Calliou, a bald character on a PBS kids show.

Through my travels, I’ve met some wonderful fellow survivors who had been there, too, and decided to write books to help other young families affected by this disease. I’d like to share them with you:

Nowhere Hair, by Sue Glader, illustrated by Edith Buenen
The story begins with a little girl looking everywhere for her mother’s hair, “Where did it go? I looked, you know. And it’s not anywhere.” Then gently discusses the changes in her mom that affects the girl but how some things never change: the way mom loves her and the way she loves her mom. The book is beautifully illustrated and has a rhythmic pattern that will please young children. It’s one of those books perfect for snuggling with your little one.

You are the Best Medicine, by Julie Aigner Clark, illustrated by Jana Christy
This book brought tears to my eyes when I read it because it reminds me so much of my relationship with my daughter. It’s spoken in the words of a mother to her young daughter, affirming how her daughter lights up her life. As she talks to her daughter, she tells of how she’s reminded of the joy she has brought to her through the years. I love that the mom admits she has fears and relates in a way her daughter can understand, “Sometimes I will feel scared, because I have to go to the doctor a lot. But I will remember the times when you were scared, times you had a nightmare and came into my room to sleep with me. Your skin was as soft as a butterfly’s wing, and you curled against me and we felt safe.” And she goes on to tell her daughter they can still “cocoon” together and have the same warm feeling. The beautiful story ends with the mom telling her daughter all the great times they will have when she is feeling better and how she will look back on this time and remember the love and caring they shared.

When Your Mom has Cancer: Helping Children Cope at Home and Beyond, by Maryann Makekau, with a foreword by L. Rebecca Baskin, MD
When Your Mom has Cancer is geared to younger school-aged children, answering questions kids can have, such as “can you see cancer?” “Does it hurt?” It an excellent guide, putting things in terms and context kids can understand, like this way in describing scans, “It’s like these machines have super powers that can see through your skin!” The book encourages families to talk about cancer, and helps kids identify and feel their feelings. The book ends with tips for moms and some resources for parents and their children.

In my next post, I’ll share about communicating with your teens. My daughter Chrissy, has agreed to guest post, so you’ll hear directly from her what it’s like from a teen’s perspective. In the meantime, here’s a great online resource for teens that I recently discovered:

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