Part of effective parenting is allowing children to talk about topics that cause discomfort. In some cultures, the subject of death has become taboo. A diagnosis of cancer forces both parents and children to acknowledge that death is a very real possibility. Even children as young as 3 years old may think about death and what it means.
Eighteen months into treatment, 5-year-old Katy said, "Mommy, sometimes I think about my spirit leaving my body. I think my spirit is here (gesturing to the back of her head) and my body is here (pointing to her belly button). I just wanted you to know that I think about it sometimes."
After my first relapse at age 13, my parents always kept the focus on the future. On the way to every procedure, we would plan the wonderful things that we were going to do afterwards. They never discussed death. But when I asked if leukemia could kill people, my father was honest and he told me, "Yes, some kids die." I appreciated him being straight with me, and I went right back to being optimistic.
After my third relapse, my nurse said something to me about death and dying. I clearly remember my reaction. I told her, "I know kids die from this, but I'm not going to!"
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Although nobody gets a parenting manual or bible in the delivery room, it is our duty as parents to try to make our kids as well rounded, happy and confident as possible. It is a lot easier to bring up great kids than it is to try and fix problems caused by bad parenting, when our kids have become adults. Our children are all individuals - they are not our property but people in their own right.