Of the estimated 1.4 million adults in the United States who will be diagnosed with cancer this year, approximately 25 percent will have a child 18 years or younger. For these parents, in addition to worrying about their own well-being, many will wonder about how and what to tell their children about their cancer and their treatment. To help address these and other concerns, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston developed the Family Connections Program, which provides supportive resources for children, guidance, online support and information for parents with cancer.

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s free Family Connections web site contains a wide array of information that was developed in consultation with oncology professionals and parents with cancer, as well as their children. The site provides guidance on how to talk about the disease with children of all ages, from preschoolers through teenagers. Topics covered include explaining treatments, helping children cope, and talking with the children’s teachers. There also are tips for creating a support network (complete with a sample calendar to use for assigning helper tasks), and online links to dozens of relevant kid-friendly Web sites, DVDs, and books on the topic divided by age groups.

Nancy Borstelmann, MPH, MSW, LICSW, director of the Family Connections program, said making the information available via the web has made it much more accessible. “We often hear from parents how helpful and reassuring it is to them to have a trusted, easily accessible resource which to bring their questions and concerns to at anytime of the day or week. Questions, concerns and anxieties arise at all hours, and this Web site was created to help answer or allay them” (Newswise).