Supportive Care at the Joan Karnell Cancer Center
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Level of Understanding and Developmental Stage

  • Self-focused; beginning to see himself or herself as separate from the parent.
  • Minimal understanding of time.
  • While people or things may go away, they are always expected to come back. When a parent leaves or is absent, the child may cry or act out to make the parent return.
  • Understand being hurt or sick, but not the concept of illness.

Helping Them Cope

  • Familiar surroundings and people mean security.
  • Try to maintain their normal routine. If changes occur, explain it to the child in a way that they can understand the impact. For example, you might say: “I feel bad today and need to rest, so I can’t play with you right now.”
  • Provide as much love and attention as you can; hugs are very reassuring.
  • Reassure the child that they are healthy and that it is not their fault their parent is sick.


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Need an appointment? Request one online 24 hours/day, 7 days/week or call 800-789-PENN (7366) to speak to a referral counselor.

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