New Program Helps Parents During Treatment for Cancer
Parents Get Guidance on Talking With Their Kids About Their Cancer
Parenting at a Challenging Time
Many adults being treated for cancer have children and teens living in the home. Understandably, these patients worry about how their cancer and treatment will affect their children. The anxiety they feel may impact both their quality of life and the decisions they make about treatment. Clinicians do not routinely ask about parenting concerns during medical visits so referrals for counseling and advice are often not made.
In May 2018 the Stanford Survivorship Program launched a program in collaboration with Dr. Paula Rauch of Massachusetts General Hospital. The program is called Parenting At a Challenging Time or PACT. The program offers free guidance to parents with dependent children who are undergoing cancer treatment at Stanford and who are concerned about discussing difficult issues with their children.
How PACT Works
A clinical psychologist, Dr. Emily Ach, meets with the parent(s) to learn about their family, any past experience with cancer, the child’s age, temperament, current understanding, worries the child may have expressed, and the parents’ specific concerns.
The premise of PACT is that parents are the experts on their children and our clinicians are experts on child development as it pertains to an understanding of illness. Dr. Ach will work with parents to feel better prepared to talk with their children, including addressing difficult questions about prognosis and death, because children and teens want to know about their parent’s illness.
PACT encourages and helps to facilitate open communication between the parents and children in a developmentally appropriate manner. The goal following one or more sessions is for parents to feel they have a plan to support their children’s ability to cope, promote resilience, and recognize the signs that more help is needed.
As of November 2018, 20 families have been seen by the PACT Stanford Program. The feedback from parents has been extremely positive. Many families express profound relief and gratitude after meeting when they feel, many for the first time that they have the tools to talk with their children about their own cancer diagnosis and treatment.