How Do I Tell My Kids About My Cancer Diagnosis? Wonders & Worries Can Help!

Receiving a cancer diagnosis feels scary and overwhelming for most people. This shocking news elicits uncertainty, worry, and many questions: Why me? Will I be ok? What will treatment be like? How do I tell my family? When do I tell them? How much do I tell them?

These questions can be especially distressing for parents with young children and teenagers. Parents often feel unsure of how talk about their diagnosis with their kids, as well as how to prepare and support them through the many changes to come. Wonders & Worries is here to help ease the burden of having to navigate these uncertainties alone.

Wonders & Worries is an Austin-based nonprofit, providing free, professional support to children and teens during a parent’s serious illness. Without adequate support, a parent’s life-changing diagnosis can negatively affect a child, increasing their risks for behavioral, emotional, and academic problems. Additionally, it can interfere with personal relationships and stress management. Wonders & Worries’ free programs ensure children and teenagers can reach their full potential, despite a parent’s serious illness.

Certified Child Life Specialists—healthcare professionals trained in the developmental impact of illness and injury—lead children through an evidence-based, 6-session curriculum. Children learn about their parent’s illness in developmentally appropriate language, tailored to their individual learning styles. Children also learn how to label their feelings and recognize signs of stress in their bodies. Child life specialists explore various coping mechanisms with kids to help them identify which coping tools best support their unique coping style.

Our child life specialists communicate regularly with parents, providing resources and tools to empower parents in talking about their illness, as well as supporting their children through challenging circumstances. The communication skills and coping tools each family develops pave a path to successfully navigate any new changes throughout their medical journey or any other challenging situations to come.

After receiving support from Wonders & Worries, families feel more connected and gain greater understanding of what each other needs during times of stress. Some kids prefer to know minimal information of a parent’s diagnosis and treatment plan; others prefer hearing all the details. Some children cope best through physical activities, while others benefit from journaling. Some feel the need to scream, while others need quiet time. Families learn about themselves and each other through their time with Wonders & Worries so they can communicate and support each other more effectively.

With five offices in Central Texas, services offered in English and Spanish, Saturday sessions, and evening hours, we make it easy for families to access the care they need to thrive during a difficult time. Wonders & Worries is also pleased to announce the opening of a Houston office in September 2020.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Wonders & Worries quickly adapted to providing virtual support via video chat, parent phone consultations, and mailing supplies for therapeutic activities.  We also extended operation hours of our national helpline: 1-844-WE-WONDER (1-844-939-6633), accepting calls Monday-Thursday 10am-4pm. The helpline is available for families, as well as healthcare professionals, to speak to a child life specialist and receive expert advice on talking to kids about adult illness. Additionally, we developed several resource pages for the community, free for download on our website, that address how to support children during the pandemic, and children with family affected by COVID-19.

We are always welcoming new families! If you or someone you know could use our support, please give us a call, or make a referral online! For more information about our services and resources for parents and professionals, please visit our website at www.wondersandworries.org.

We will, together.

Jordan Ruch, CCLS

Jordan joined Wonders & Worries with over 6 years of experience as a Certified Child Life Specialist, supporting pediatric patients and families in the hospital setting. She graduated from the University of Michigan—Ann Arbor, where she earned a bachelor’s degree, studying art & design and psychology. After interning at C.S Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Jordan spent 2 years at Baylor Scott & White McLane Children’s in Temple, Texas, working primarily in the Emergency Department. Most recently, Jordan supported trauma and surgical patients at Dell Children’s Medical Center in Austin, Texas. As part of our outreach team, Jordan utilizes her passion and experience in child life to raise awareness and help build the community of Wonders & Worries. Outside of work, Jordan enjoys working out, teaching barre classes, and spending time outdoors, especially around water!

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