Finding out you, or someone close to you, has cancer is one of the toughest things to hear, and absorb. For adults, further explaining a diagnosis to a child can be excruciatingly difficult. To help parents broach this sensitive subject with their kids, the Montreal Jewish General Hospital offers a program called en famille through its Hope and Cope resource and wellness centre founded in 2009. The program’s objective is to tend to the needs of cancer patients and their children.
Program coordinator Sandy Lipkus, who is also an author, social worker and teacher, has worked for 20 years at the Jewish General Hospital’s Segal Cancer Centre. Within the last two years, Lipkus has written three books: Talking to Children about Cancer, Talking to Children about Advanced Cancer and End of Life, and Talking to Children about the Loss of a Loved One.
“We’re finding that there are a lot of young people with cancer these days, and they’re struggling not only with their condition, but with how to talk to their children,” Lipkus says. “So, this is a key resource for these patients.”
Lipkus says that what you say to a 5-year-old will be very different to what is said to a 14-year-old. So the books explain age-appropriate ways to talk to your child about cancer, illness and death. Additionally, each book has suggestions for parents on how to explain a diagnosis and help kids cope.
Lipkus distributes her books throughout the Jewish General’s Segal Cancer Centre’s team of doctors, nurses and social workers. In turn, they refer her to patients with young children who may be struggling. She also makes her books available at the Glen, as well as school boards and children’s libraries around Montreal so they can give them to teachers who have students coping with a cancer diagnosis in the family.
All three books are bilingual and free. Parents can download them by clicking here.