Mesothelioma takes between 20 and 50 years to develop. Due to this long latency period, the asbestos-caused cancer affects middle-aged and elderly people most often.
If a patient is in their forties or fifties, they may have an adolescent still living under their roof. A pre-teen or teenager — or even an early twenties college student — may struggle to be around a parent or grandparent with mesothelioma.
If you have mesothelioma, then you are the person most directly affected by this cancer. However, your friends and family may endure a heavy burden. Is there any way you can help your child manage their emotions?
Here are four communication tips for mesothelioma patients who have an adolescent child still living with them.
Be Honest and UpFront
Don’t try and hide the truth from your child. If they’re at least a pre-teen, then they likely have internet access and will look up information on mesothelioma themselves. They should be told what mesothelioma is, how it affects your body and the reality of your diagnosis. Include them in conversations after doctor appointments.
Lillie Shockney, a two-time cancer survivor and cancer expert, wrote an article on the Conquer magazine website about this topic. She suggests parents steer clear of saying they’ll “be fine” to their adolescent child. She adds, “That is only fooling yourself and, frankly, not fooling them.”
Explain How They Can Help You
As a mesothelioma patient, you likely won’t be able to handle all the responsibilities you once did. Your treatment may make you fatigued, especially if you’re undergoing chemotherapy. Your loved ones must assume at least part of the caregiver role.
You may not be able to complete every household chore or family task. So sit down with your child and explain how they can help you and the rest of the family. They, along with their siblings and your spouse, will need to assume more responsibilities.
Cooking food, taking out the trash, doing laundry, cleaning dishes, picking up groceries and other tasks will help preserve your limited energy. Remember to show appreciation for how helpful they’ve been. It’s a definite sign of maturity to step in when they’re needed.
Don’t Force Them to Grow Up Too Fast
While your child should help out more with chores and errands, they shouldn’t fill their schedules with only adult tasks.
“Just because they live in the same house doesn’t mean they need to become you now,” Shockney writes.
She adds that teenagers need “teenager time,” which involves going to the movies or spending time with friends. If it’s a pre-teen, then they should also have activities that fit their age. A college-aged child deserves the same.
A healthy social life is important for any adolescent child. You may have to sit down with them and push them to shed their caretaker responsibilities a bit. By doing so, you’re being a good parent.
Be Patient With Their Emotions
Remember, you aren’t the only person affected by your disease. Your friends and family members will experience a range of emotions as they grapple with the news of your diagnosis and prognosis. Mental health affects the patient and caregivers.
Human beings never stop developing emotionally and mentally, but this is especially true for adolescents. They’re still maturing and may process life-altering news in a different way than you or others will. There’s no guide book to predict how your son or daughter will react in the minutes, hours, days, weeks and months after you tell them you have mesothelioma.
Some will get emotional. Others will shut down and close themselves off. Your kid may get angry and lash out, possibly targeting their emotions at you or other family members. Be patient with them and understand that the thought of losing their mother or father is the driving force behind their words or actions. They’re just kids, after all, and even the most mature adults struggle with news that they or a loved one has mesothelioma.
If you’re a mesothelioma patient and want advice on speaking with loved ones about your disease, we can help. Our patient advocate and registered nurse, Jenna Campagna, is available to all people with this cancer. Email firstname.lastname@example.org any questions you have regarding communicating with your adolescent child, spouse or another close person in your life.