By Marylin Smith Carsley

Cancer cannot be hidden behind a mask.

Unlike the global pandemic, there is no cancer curve to flatten; cancer is a disease that persists despite surrounding circumstances, and is troubling for patients’ family members- particularly children. Perhaps the most significant concern for parents with cancer is how to manage their treatment and symptoms, while caring for, and in some instances, homeschooling their kids. How do families navigate these changes? How do parents speak truthfully to their children about the disease while keeping them educated and entertained?

COVID-19 restrictions have limited Hope & Cope’s ability to proceed with its usual on-site activities, although many programs and activities are now being offered on-line. However, not all children have access to computers or iPads or reliable internet connections.

There are many resources available for families with children under the age of 18. For example, Sandy Lipkus, Hope & Cope’s En famille program coordinator, has written three booklets: Talking to Children about CancerTalking to Children about Advanced Cancer and End of Life, and Talking to Children about the Loss of a Loved One. They are available in English and French and provide tremendous insight for parents wanting to speak honestly with their children about their cancer diagnoses. These can be downloaded at no cost here https://www.hopeandcope.ca/young-adults-young-families/en-famille/. For those without Internet access, contact Sandy Lipkus directly (slipkus@jgh.mcgill.ca) and she will be happy to mail you copies of the booklets.

For those with digital access, here are some additional helpful online resources.

Day Camps: (all designed around the concept of social distancing)

West Island Cancer Wellness Centre (WICW)

  • Zooming into Wellness (English)

o   https://wicwc.com/zooming-into-wellness-for-kids/

  • Zoomez avec le bien-être pour enfants (français)

o   https://wicwc.com/fr/zoomez-avec-le-bien-etre-pour-enfants/

Parents explaining a cancer diagnosis to their children (A Puppet family). Available in English, this is very good for elementary school aged children.

Hope & Cope offers excellent ideas to keep children stimulated and have social contact. Parents should check hopeandcope.ca regularly for updates.