How to explain cancer to a 4 yr old?

Liza - posted on 12/26/2014 ( 7 moms have responded )

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I'm watching "My Sister's Keeper" and my 4yr old is asking so many questions. How do I explain cancer to her?
Her paternal grandmother has has breast cancer, but way before my daughter was even thought of.

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Sarah - posted on 12/26/2014

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She's four, and I agree with Sarah H., Answer her questions in language she can understand. Cancer is a disease and some people can get very sick and others not so sick. Follow her lead, but don't lie to her and tell her that you will never get sick, or grandma will get better. If she asks, you can tell her the truth; you don't know, but you are healthy now and you are doing everything you can to stay healthy. No matter where the questions originate, they are going to come up. My son saw a couple making out like crazy and asked me why were they trying to eat each other? I had no control over the PDA, so I explained that they were kissing, that it might be nice if they did it in private. He was satisfied.
Instead of seeing the movie, your child may encounter someone who is bald from chemotherapy in public. Sometimes, simple, brief, honest answers are the best. Yes, kids get hung up on things and develop unusual fears, if that happens you'll deal with it. My son had some serious post 9-11 fears, he had just turned five. We dealt with it and it settled down after a bit.

Sarah - posted on 12/26/2014

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I would keep it simple by just explaining that it is something that makes people sick. If she needs more information she will ask more questions.

My advise for the future is to not watch adult movies or shows that deal with adult issues when she is around. She is 4 yrs old and though sometimes life brings those issues into their lives......family or friend is dealing with cancer. But when those issues don't have to be introduced at such a young age it is best to allow a child to be a child and not have to deal with adult issues.

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Liza - posted on 12/26/2014

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I understand what you're saying. Yes, id totally freak if that were to pop up on the screen. They do have parental control in their room only. And well, My TV is just always on lifetime. Thanks for the advice though.

Jodi - posted on 12/26/2014

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Imagine if you just turned the tv right in the middle of a sex scene in a movie!! I would strongly suggest using your parental controls in future, because that way, you can't accidentally tune it in to something inappropriately rated for your children and risk having them see something that may be a problem for them. I always had mine set up for PG rating until my kids got older, just so that we had more control over what came up on the screen if they were in the room. It's a great tool to have. Anyway, just a suggestion to help in the future. That's not to say I never let my children watch M rated movies, just that I had more control over when they came up on the screen and which ones they were.

Liza - posted on 12/26/2014

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Thank you, Sarah Hofland for being somewhat understanding. Like i stated above, she was entertained. And i had just turned the tv on. Keep in mind I dont let my girls watch anything inappropriate. She is my middle child but is very advanced and as a child she notices everything.

Liza - posted on 12/26/2014

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I was going to add in detail that she was entertained with drawing her alphabet, after doing some cleaning i had just sat on the sofa to relax a bit. I always go to lifetime (i love lifetime ), and well My sisters keeper was on. Right on the part where the sister was in the hospital.

I dont need a review about the ratings. Im pretty sure i know how they work. I was just simply asking a question and didn't feel I needed to get into detail. But thank you anyway.

Jodi - posted on 12/26/2014

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This movie is M for a reason - because of its adult themes (not sure what the rating is in your country, but in ours it says for audiences over 15). It's really inappropriate to be watching it with your 4 year old around if you are going to struggle to explain those adult themes to her. That's the point of the rating.

Have you discussed with her that sometimes people get sick because the cells in their body get sick? She doesn't need to know the details of what cancer is, just that people, and animals, sometimes get sick - some of them can get better with medicine and some of them don't.

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