Making A Difficult Conversation Less Scary – There’s An App For That!

This post was sponsored by Celgene Corporation.  Personal opinions and thoughts are my own.

Breast cancer is an overwhelming diagnosis to face. Now, imagine having to go through it all with a child (or children) under the age of 8-years-old. It can be a lot for their little minds to process and can leave them scared. What do you say? Will they understand? Do you tell them at all? Well now, there is a new interactive app available that is designed to help parents have these conversations with their kid(s), and can help make it less scary for them.

The Magic Tree is a brand new, free app designed by Celgene specifically to help parents with children between the ages of 5 – 8-years-old to have age-appropriate conversations about mom having breast cancer. You can find more information on how to download the app here: http://magictreebreastcancer.com. What’s nice about this particular app is that there is a helpful discussion guide for parents that goes over each topic and provides guidelines for conversation. Included in the guide are possible behavioral signs that parents might recognize in their child’s reaction to their parent’s illness, as well as some helpful suggestions on what best to do.

Aesthetically, the app is a charming cross between a video game and a chapter book, which has a friendly and fun feeling, like many interactive learning games. When you open the app, The Magic Tree sits in the middle of the screen. There are noises from nature and cars driving by on the road behind the tree. Sitting against the rolling green hills is a house, playground, library and hospital. Each contain the four videos that are the “cancer” part of the app, each dealing with a different aspect of mom or dad’s breast cancer. Each also has a game that can be played after the video or at a later time.

The Magic Tree covers four main topics within the game:

Can You Catch Cancer?

The playground icon helps children understand that cancer isn’t like a cold or the flu. They can’t get it from someone else or being around someone that has cancer. Here is it also explained that they are not alone, that other people are also diagnosed with cancer, too. The video ends with the suggestion to head over to the house icon.

Is It My Fault?

The house icon tackles this question that many children, and sadly adults, often ask. The 1:45 minute video does well with explaining that cancer isn’t anyone’s fault and no one knows why it happens. Then the video encourages the child to help around the house (but not do too much), and that even though mom may not be able to spend as much time doing things as before their love hasn’t changed one bit. The video ends with the suggestion of heading to the library next to learn more about the cancer inside mom or dad’s body.

What Is Cancer?

The library is where cancer is explained in a 2:09 minute video with age appropriate graphics. The video helps children understand how the cancer started in the cells and how cancer that grows forms a tumor. The way to stop the cancer from growing is to visit the doctor and hospital often. The video ends with that segue, suggesting the hospital is the place to go to learn exactly what the doctors may do to treat the cancer.

How Do You Treat Breast Cancer?

The hospital is one of the longer videos, where such topics as biopsies, operations, radiation, chemo (and types of chemo) are explained. The video does a good job at showing what some of these procedures look like in a non-scary way. Side effects are also explained, like nausea from chemo, hair loss and exhaustion.

At the end of each completed chapter a prize is earned that goes onto the Magic Tree.

A game is included with each chapter because who doesn’t like a game? Two games are for two players and two are single player games. The game in the chapter, Can I Catch Cancer?, is geared around avoiding hugging the people that look “sick.” The other games are “just for fun” games. In all of the games there are no winners or losers, but at the end of each first play there is a prize earned that goes onto the Magic Tree. Children don’t need to worry, when the Magic Tree is full of prizes, just go into the Menu and hit the reset button and they can start all over to earn those prizes!

I really like the glossary, with all of the words that may be difficult for children to understand. What I like most about it is that it’s also in audio format so the child can go through the glossary on their own and have each word and definition played back to them.

The team at Celgene really put thought and care into considering the needs of the parents, too. There is also a discussion guide for parents and a “selected resources” section. Inside that tab is a list of organizations that have information for how to talk to children and information on breast cancer.
What I really appreciated most about this app was that in each chapter there was a consistent message of having open dialogue between parents and children. Children are encouraged to talk to their parents about their feelings and how they feel about mom or dad having cancer. It’s important that children feel comfortable asking questions and being able to open up about how they are feeling when a parent is sick. The encouragement from this app is just as important as the explanations it gives for cancer.

The app is available for free download now on iTunes and for Android via Google Play – you can find links to download it here: http://magictreebreastcancer.com. Download it, give it a whirl and if you know someone with breast cancer that has children aged 5 -8-years-old, tell them about this app!

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