Monday, July 12, 2010

Cancer-Diagnosed And Parenting A Minor

image by jana_koll, sxc.hu

Use The Occasion To Build Resilience In The Family

It is a very decent family from all angles. There's you, and there are your children, all of them minors. The partner may or may not be in the picture. Life is progressing on an even keel. It's a beautiful world. However, of late, you have been feeling slightly odd, there's this funny feeling, and you check in with the doctor. Some routine investigations are suggested. The reports come in after a few days. And the diagnosis turns your world upside down. You have been diagnosed with cancer.

image by hortongrou, sxc.hu

A knee-jerk reaction for most parents is to hide the condition from the child and pretend that everything is hunky-dory. As a parent, you think you are being protective by shielding the child from all that the word "Cancer" stands for. Psychologists suggest that, on the contrary, you might be actually harming the child by doing so. As member of the family unit, the child cannot escape all that is going on in the family. The subtle and not-so-subtle change in the lifestyle and routine of the parent is not lost on the child. The frequency of visits to the hospital and clinics suddenly appear to have increased. There are a lot more medicines in the cabinet which the parent keeps popping every now and then. The feeling of a general pall of gloom in the household whenever the child comes back from school is puzzling. The parent themselves increasingly look haggard and down by the day. There is a change in the tone and the body language that the sensitive child picks up. At a certain psychic level, the child is unable to cope with the new environment, which, depending on their susceptibility and predisposition, leads to emotional distress in the short-to-medium term and developmental problems in the longer term. Now imagine such a child learning about the condition, and even worse, that you - their parent - has it, from outside?

image by doriana_s, sxc.hu

So what is the solution? It is suggested that rather than hide, it is best to discuss the issue with the child upfront and engage them in a constructive dialog. Educate yourself, and give the child enough education about what the term "cancer" is all about - how it is caused, how it is different from the ordinary cold and fever the child had last winter, how it will likely affect your lifestyle further down the road, and what are the steps you are taking to recover from it. Talk about it in a matter-of-fact manner, without adding any element of profundity or melancholy. As you share your own anxiety and stress about the disease with the child, you will realize that your own perspective towards the condition shifts from woolly helplessness to solid resilience.

image by lilgoldwmn, sxc.hu

Of course death is a possibility, so be open and honest about it, and in a self-affirming, constructive way. Instead of surrendering to the inevitability of transiting to the next dimension in a sad, despairing way, when you believe from the core of your heart that you want to recover and that you are fighting against the disease in your body with all your might, you are not only sending out a strong, positive signal to the Universe at large, you will also be demonstrating to your child how to face adversity. If there is any lesson of living that you can pass on to the child as legacy, then this must be it. And the child will thank you for it down the road.

image by hisks, sxc.hu

[Handling adversity is a skill that one learns with maturity. Imagine a child handling adversity in the form of a snake it encounters in its path while crawling on its belly? The same child grows into an adult and has to handle situations such as unexpected job loss or sudden death of the intimate partner due to accident. Adversities are inevitable in this Universe; they are part of the package. You cannot "avoid" them, but you can definitely shift your attitude towards them. Here is an article to help you better understand this shifting process: "Handling Adversity".]

image by izilein, sxc.hu

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