A cancer diagnosis is overwhelming and scary for everyone in the family, including children. Many parents think it is better to shield their children and protect them from worrying. Experts in child psychology teach that children of cancer patients may run the risk of suffering from extreme anxiety when they know something is happening in their families and they don’t know how to talk about it. Helping children gain understanding through a children’s cancer support group promotes trust and enables children to diminish their fears and feel closer to their parents.
The Tree House Gang at DeKalb Medical is a cancer class for children ages 5 to 17 years old. Information about their parent’s diagnosis is shared in a way they can understand, and with consideration of their ages and maturity level. The right information has been shown to help decrease children’s worries and calm their fears. In three consecutive after-school cancer support group sessions, the children are guided through art, play, discussion and tours of the hospital to help them understand what cancer means. Three important questions are addressed:
1) What is happening in my family?
2) What happens during treatment?
3) What is happening to me?
Our staff has worked with children of patients for more than 15 years, and the program has received national recognition from the Surgeon General’s Office and the Centers for Disease Control. Under the guidance of an oncology nurse and licensed child therapist, the DeKalb Medical Tree House Gang offers the right level of information and education in a supportive and interactive setting. DeKalb Medical also offers a separate grief support program for children. The Tree House Gang is provided free of charge to children, regardless of where their parents are receiving cancer treatment.
The DeKalb Medical Tree House Gang meets three consecutive Thursday nights every quarter. Click here for a copy of The Tree House Gang brochure and call the DeKalb Medical Cancer Center at 404.501.5701 to learn about upcoming dates and register.