Families where an adult member is living with cancer. Parents and/or significant caregivers are invited to attend with children.
Wellspring offers a Children’s and Parents’ Program that brings parents (or grandparents, favorite aunts etc…) and their children together for networking, conversations about having cancer in the family, and for tools to help cope with and express feelings. This program is for families in which the parent (or grandparent, etc…) has been diagnosed with cancer and the children in their lives are between the ages of five and 12.
What to Expect at a Session
Children participate in the Kidz Corner Program, where they learn through age-appropriate conversations and therapeutic play activities, that they are not alone. Children are guided by a child life specialist who helps them explore what cancer is and how it impacts their loved ones and their families. Each week the children are provided with a short video outlining some fun activity that will guide their discussion when they come together for their program session. Kidz corner is 30-45 minutes.
After the children’s session and a short break, the parents will meet online and share parenting strategies and experiences related to their lived cancer journey. Topics align with the kidz corner to allow for ongoing family conversation.
What to Expect at the In-Person Program:
Families come together for eight evenings in as many weeks, and benefit from the sense of community that comes with shared-experiences as both children and adults. The evening begins with the entire group sharing a prepared meal together, then adults and children go to separate program rooms to enjoy distinct activities. Children are guided by a child life specialist who helps them explore what cancer is and how it impacts their loved ones and their families. Adults share parenting strategies and experiences related to their lived cancer journey. Near the end of the evening, the children present the discoveries they have made. This shared experience promotes ongoing conversations at home and helps ease tensions in family interactions.
Benefits and Impact
It has been shown that parental cancer can cause a wide array of problems in the family, including stress and fear, lack of discussion about the disease or diagnosis, reduced academic performance, and emotional dysfunction (Denzinger, 2019). Among the children of cancer survivors, research has identified a strong need for age-appropriate information about cancer, specialized support to help cope with distress, and interaction with peers in similar situations to help normalize their experience (Ellis et al., 2016; Inhestern et al., 2021).
The Children’s and Parent’s Program is designed to address these needs and problems in peer-to-peer groups. The children of people living with cancer are supported by a child life specialist and taught about the disease with a developmental approach, while the parents attend support group sessions. Studies of similar interventions for families with parental cancer have reported improvements in numerous family- and health-related outcomes, including family communication, feelings of isolation, parental anxiety, emotional wellbeing, age-appropriate knowledge about illness, and quality of life (Ehrbar et al., 2022; Eklund et al., 2020; Kobayashi et al., 2017; Ohan et al., 2020; Phillips et al., 2022).
In this program, children also learn about meditation and coping with stress in a kid-friendly way. Benefits such as improved resilience, stress management, and quality of life have been reported in studies of meditation-based interventions for children and adults alike (Carlson et al., 2016; Galantino et al., 2019; Hagen & Nayar, 2014).