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Caring for a Loved One with Cancer: Don’t Forget About the Kids

Most of us know someone who has or is currently battling cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, over 1.5 million Americans were diagnosed with cancer in 2010 alone. June Hunt has written a book that gives readers practical tips for providing emotional, spiritual, and physical support to loved ones facing this disease. We’ll be sharing some of June’s tips from Caring for a Loved One with Cancer throughout breast cancer awareness month. Stay tuned!

Don’t Forget About the Kids:

When a mom or dad has a life-threatening illness, often the stress is so great and the grief so deep that children get lost in the shuffle. Perhaps the greatest gift you can give to a parent struggling with a serious illness is choosing to focus on the children: learn their likes and dislikes, notice their needs, and help them face their fears. Consider these possible suggestions:

  • When visiting your friend, be a friend to the children. Spend time talking with each child, if possible, one on one. Begin with general questions such as, “What do you like most about school?” “Who is your favorite teacher and why?” “How is this year different from last year?”
  • Bring a batch of home-baked cookies for them to put in their lunch boxes or enough for them to share with their friends. Better yet, give the goodies to their mother to give to the children. This helps Mom still feel like a mom!
  • Be aware of Christmas and birthday gifts. Ask your friend, “Would you like for me to buy something special for you to give to Jimmy?” If so, buy the gift wrap as well, but let your friend see the gift before it’s wrapped.
  • Purchase humorous cards, posters, or gifts for your loved one to give. Although this is a heavy time, these fun items allow the sick one to introduce some much-needed levity. Remember, children love to laugh.
  • Carry a camera when you visit. Take pictures of the children, both by themselves as well as with their parents. Put exceptional pictures in a frame. Even though most of the attention is on the one who is ill, this special attention lets the kids know that they are still important.
  • Volunteer for needed transportation for a child’s field trip or a birthday party. Be sure to inquire ahead of time about what the child is to bring.
  • After treatments have become routine, offer to take the children to observe a chemo treatment for a little while. Doing so may take away the mystique and answer many questions they may have about this part of the therapy. It would also allow them to be a part of the process with their family member.
  • Take the children to buy school supplies or school clothes or a special outfit for no particular occasion. One grown daughter continues year after year to thank me for taking her (along with her brother and sisters) to buy clothes during a time when their mother was physically incapacitated. I’m still absolutely amazed at the long-term impact this one act of kindness has had through the years.

Amid the maze of emotions, children need to be assured that they aren’t suddenly less loved and that their welfare isn’t less important. A parent’s severe illness is a clear case of a family in crisis, and you can help the family by focusing on the children. Keeping a child’s routine of school, activities, and friends is very helpful.

Will these and other little acts of kindness make any real difference? Yes, beyond a shadow of doubt! The greatest treasures in God’s kingdom are built from the smallest acts of kindness toward His little ones. A truly unselfish gift is one that is given to those who cannot return the favor. And, in the eyes of the Lord, any act of kindness toward someone in need is an act of love toward Him. Jesus said, “‘I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me.’ . . . ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?’ . . . ‘Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me’” (Matt. 25:35–40 NKJV).

Excerpt from Caring for a Loved One with Cancer by June Hunt. Read a sample chapter.

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