When a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, is going through treatment, or has passed away from cancer, the children and teens in the family may experience a range of emotions that they have never had to deal with before. While each child responds in his or her own unique way, it is crucial that they have access to information and support that will enable them to better manage the changes in their day-to-day routine and cope with the unfamiliar emotional journey that they find themselves experiencing.
Several factors, such as the child’s age, personality, relationship with the cancer patient, and the way that others in their life are behaving, influence how a child will react and cope during this stressful time. Many children cannot, or will not, verbalize how they feel directly. Often they show their feelings through disruptive behaviors, such as fighting with their siblings or acting out at school. Some children will regress (act younger than their age), such as becoming upset when they must be away from their parent or suddenly wetting the bed at night. Children and teens who have problems paying attention in school may have even more trouble now than before. Staying focused on schoolwork and other daily activities can become overwhelmingly difficult when a loved one is undergoing cancer treatments or when they are grieving the loss of someone they were close to.
Noogieland™ at Gilda’s
At Gilda’s Desert Cities, it is our mission to ensure that everyone in the family receives the social and emotional support they need throughout the cancer journey. Our program for youth is called Noogieland™. It is both a concept and a place where children and teens who have been touched by cancer can find a safe place to share and understand that they are not alone. All children and teens who have been touched by cancer are welcome, whether they have a loved one with cancer, have lost a family member to cancer, or who have cancer themselves.
Facilitated by a licensed mental health professional, our Thursday evening support groups for children and teens take place at the same time our adult support groups are in session just down the hall. Dinner is served right before group, allowing everyone in the family to build and maintain social connections with others facing similar challenges. In the Children’s Support Group, kids ages 5-12 get a chance to play and laugh with other children who know what they are going through. The group allows children to find healthy ways to express their emotions through art and play. The Teen Support Group provides teens ages 13-17 with a safe space to relax, spend time with other teens, and to discuss the emotional aspects of having cancer in the family.
“Children and teens find so much value in having a special time each week for creative play, bonding and communicating with other kids experiencing similar circumstances. Younger children often express looking forward to ‘going to the club’ on Thursdays – the one time during their week that they can safely explore what they are going through,” says Noogieland™ Facilitator, Jamye Jesser, PsyD. “It is truly amazing to witness the strength and courage that these kids demonstrate, and just how valuable this type of social and emotional support can be for younger and older children alike.”
To get more information about Noogieland™ or to have your child join, please give us a call at (760) 770-5678.
Resources for Helping Kids Deal with Cancer
from the Cancer Support Community
- What do I Tell the Kids? a downloadable guide for parents
- Talking to Kids and Teens About Cancer Web page
- A Safe Place For Teens To Talk About Cancer online forum
- Frankly Speaking About Cancer Radio Show has several episodes for kids and teens. Browse the library of past recordings.
Talk to a Helpline Counselor
Anyone affected by the cancer journey can find support over the phone through the Cancer Support Helpline.
Call 888-793-9355 anytime Monday – Friday 9:00 am to 9:00 pm ET or CHAT LIVE.