Communicating with children who have cancer and their parents make most people uncomfortable. They don’t know what to say and what not to say. This uncertainty often makes the whole situation even more uncomfortable for everyone. To help out all our readers and patients, Children Cancer Fund would like to share a few tips on what to say and what not to say. Remember that there are no exact rules or ways to react. The most important thing is to just show compassion and be there in whichever way you may be needed.
What NOT to say to children and teenagers
“I know how you feel”- Unless you also have cancer, that is definitely not something you want to say.
Don’t offer advice if not asked – If you haven’t been through a similar experience, your advice may not be accepted well. You don’t understand the situation or how these kids feel and they will not believe that your advice is valid.
“Everything will be okay” – You don’t know that and you will most likely be seen as a liar or insincere. There are no guarantees with cancer and even though you may mean well, this phrase will not always be taken well.
Tell them to always be happy or positive – Yes, they should stay positive and hopeful, but sometimes they need to be allowed to just be afraid and angry and unsure. They will appreciate a friend who can stick by them through that much more than one that only wants to see the happy.
“Everything will be back to normal soon” – This ties in with ‘everything will be okay’. Apart from the fact that you don’t know this to be true, your child, family member, friend, or co-worker will never be the same. Going through a battle with cancer is something that changes your life forever. You will never look at things the same or experience things the same. You will always support others who are going through the same things and you will likely never ‘get over it’. That’s another one to avoid.
What NOT to say to parents with children with cancer
Don’t offer advice – You don’t know how they feel or what exactly the situation is. If you don’t have experience with what they’re going through, keep the advice to yourself.
Don’t use platitudes – This may be the one thing that can really cause a problem. Parents who have a child fighting cancer, don’t want to hear how there is a reason for everything or that God must be punishing them or that it is God’s will that this happened. None of those things helps them or makes them feel better. It is also very hard for these parents to imagine why God would allow this to happen.
Don’t judge them – Again, you are not in their shoes and you don’t know what they are struggling with. Don’t judge decisions that you don’t understand and don’t tell them you would have done it differently. It’s not your child and you don’t know.
Instead of these things, rather just let both child and parents know that you are there for them, that you love them, and that you will support where ever and however you can. When you say these things, make sure to follow through. You can find more resources about this on the RESOURCES page.