(847) 579- 9317 support@copingpartners.com

Kelsey MoraKelsey Mora, CCLS, LCPC is a dual-certified child life specialist and licensed clinical professional counselor with over nine years of experience helping children, teens, and parents cope with mental illness, injury, loss, and grief. She has worked in pediatric intensive care units and co-chaired perinatal and pediatric bereavement councils. Kelsey founded her own private practice, Kelsey Mora PLLC, and is the Chief Clinical Officer of Pickles Group, a nonprofit aiding children affected by parental cancer. She is also a registered Wonders & Worries provider, part of the Food Allergy Counselor Network, and the author of “The Dot Method: an interactive tool to teach kids about cancer.”


Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • [2:52] Kelsey Mora shares how and why she began supporting kids through parental cancer diagnoses
  • [5:35] Common questions from parents after getting their cancer diagnosis
  • [7:59] How Kelsey helped a friend with cancer explain the situation to her children
  • [9:59] The importance of providing age-appropriate explanations to children
  • [11:12] Creative methods to help kids express their feelings and understand their situations
  • [17:25] Addressing parents’ needs and emotions to effectively support their children
  • [21:19] Kelsey provides examples of how to address the emotional and psychological impact of cancer on children
  • [37:01] How Kelsey got involved in the food allergy realm

In this episode…

Navigating the complexities of a cancer diagnosis is challenging for anyone, but how do you explain it to a child? How can parents find the right words to help their children understand such a difficult topic without causing additional fear or confusion?

Child life counselor Kelsey Mora recommends beginning discussions early and keeping the conversations age-appropriate and ongoing. She highlights the importance of using simple, honest language and providing consistent emotional support. Interactive tools and visual aids, like Kelsey’s Dot Method workbook, can help children grasp the concept of cancer and its treatments. These methods aid in comprehension and empower children by involving them in the process and addressing their fears directly.

In this episode of The Coping Podcast, host Dr. Leigh Weisz sits down with Kelsey Mora, Owner of Kelsey Mora PLLC and Chief Clinical Officer at Pickles Group, to discuss talking to kids about cancer. They explore practical strategies for breaking down complex medical information, the significance of emotional validation and support, and the role of creative, interactive tools in helping children cope with illness.

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Special Mentions:

Related Episodes:

Quotable Moments:

  • “I can’t control the situation, either. But I can control helping and supporting a family.”
  • “You don’t have to cover everything in one conversation… kids just need bite-sized information.”
  • “It’s okay to feel happy at moments when difficult things are happening, and that we can go through this together.”
  • “My whole career and profession [are] helping kids and teenagers in difficult moments such as cancer, illness, and grief.”
  • “Being a child life specialist makes me a better mom, and being a mom makes me a better child life specialist.”

Action Steps:

  1. Create a “coping plan” for medical procedures: Writing a step-by-step guide for kids undergoing medical treatments can help mitigate fear and offer a sense of control. This approach addresses the intense fear and anxiety that can accompany a medical procedure by providing structure and clarity to the child.
  2. Utilize child development knowledge in illness contexts: Apply parenting techniques that balance nurturing with normal development practices. This strategy respects a child’s developmental needs while also addressing the unique challenges posed by a medical condition.
  3. Empower through education: Teach children about their illness in a hands-on, age-appropriate way to reduce fear and improve understanding. By breaking down complex medical concepts, children are less likely to feel overwhelmed and more equipped to face their experiences.
  4. Practice open communication: Start conversations about health and treatment early on to build a foundation of understanding and trust. Early discussions prevent the shock or confusion that can arise from being kept in the dark, which is especially important in evolving or deteriorating medical situations.
  5. Connect with supportive communities: Engage with support groups and networks for empathy and shared experiences. Being part of a community that understands the journey reduces feelings of isolation and provides practical advice from those with similar experiences.

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by Coping Partners.

Coping Partners is a mental health practice dedicated to helping children, adolescents, and adults manage various challenges including anxiety, divorce, behavioral issues, relationship problems and much more in the Chicago suburbs.

Our practitioners are devoted to building on our clients’ strengths and bolstering weaknesses.

To gain insight and tools for getting unstuck check out our website at CopingPartners.com, email us at support@copingpartners.com.

Episode Transcript:

Intro 0:01

Welcome to The Coping Podcast where we share strategies for coping with the stressors of life, especially the difficulties of parenting. And here is your host, Dr. Leigh Weisz.

Dr. Leigh Weisz 0:15

This is Dr. Leigh Weisz. I am the host of The Coping Podcast where I feature top experts on topics like raising healthy children, parenting and so much more. Past guests include therapist and researcher Dr. Eli Lebowitz, dietitian Lara Field, and many more. Just a quick disclaimer, the information provided is for educational and informational purposes only. This is not intended to provide mental health treatment and does not constitute a client therapist relationship. The information provided is not a replacement for being assessed and evaluated by a licensed professional and is not intended to replace mental health or medical advice. Before we get into today’s topic, I wanted to introduce our guest Kelsey Mora. I’m so excited to have you here. Kelsey Mora is a dual-certified child life specialist and Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor based in the Chicagoland area. She worked in the pediatric intensive care unit for almost a decade where she co-chaired the system-wide perinatal and pediatric bereavement council. Kelsey has been working in private practice for nine years before opening her own business at the start of 2024. Currently at Kelsey Mora PLLC, she provides clinical and consulting services for kids, teens and parents impacted by medical illness, injury, grief and loss. Kelsey is a registered Wonders & Worries provider and part of the Food Allergy Counselor Network. Kelsey is the Chief Clinical Officer of Pickles Group, a nonprofit organization that provides free support and resources to kids and teens impacted by their parents cancer. And she recently published “The Dot Method: an interactive tool to teach kids about cancer.” And I’ve got the workbook here, and we’ll talk about that later in this in this interview. So thank you so much, Kelsey, for being here. We have spoken a little bit about your area of expertise, which is so important. And while I hope that none of our listeners have to be in a situation that will warrant your expertise, I’m really glad to know you’re here for when these really difficult situations come about. I know that when someone is really sick with an illness or a terminal illness, we often really struggle to name and identify with language that’s appropriate. You know how to even talk about this with kiddos. So I’m really glad that you’re here to help us with that. Can you start by telling us a little bit about how you first got into this work? And how you decided to do this type of work?

Kelsey Mora 2:52

Yeah, of course, first of all, thank you so much for having me. And I’ll add, I know, there’s a lot of parents listening. And I think a lot of the tips and tools that I share are applicable for even some of the more minor medical experiences and procedures that, you know, I was just with my neighbors and her daughter had a had a procedure, she’s like, I went and looked at your tips to help me prepare her for it. So, you know, I think there’s takeaway, regardless of the severity of situations. And to talk a little bit more about how I got into the field, I was a teenager whose friend had leukemia. And so I was, you know, visiting him in the hospital and navigating that experience as a young as a young, I guess, adult or or late adolescent. And I was actually with him when he died at the hospital. And so I had a pretty impactful experience as a teenager and started volunteering, where he was treated and learned about the Child Life profession, I immediately, you know, searched for colleges that had the Child Life expertise, and, you know, really found my passion and my dream job in his memory. And it’s really taken a lot of different turns and directions along the way, which has landed me, me here, which, you know, I never expected in all the ways that I’m you know, operating as a child life specialist and now therapist.

Dr. Leigh Weisz 4:10

Wow, that’s, that’s incredible. I’m shocked to hear I didn’t know that last part that you were actually in the room with him when he passed away. I mean, that must have been incredibly hard as a 16 year old, I can’t even imagine. Was that was that done thoughtfully, like purposefully like to be there in his final moments? Or how did that?

Kelsey Mora 4:32

No, so I was actually really scared to visit him in the hospital. I just kept saying, you know, I don’t want to remember him like that. And one of my friends encouraged me to go and while I was there, he died is his heart rate, you know, changed and they rushed me out of the room. I was a teenager, I was like all alone in the hallway and, and his family brought me back in at the end and I was able to have some, you know, meaningful experiences there, but it was definitely difficult and unexpected and so So I really didn’t want other teenagers or kids to go through something like I went through without support. And so really created my whole career and profession on helping kids and teenagers in difficult moments such as, you know, cancer, illness and grief.

Dr. Leigh Weisz 5:14

Wow, unbelievable. Thank you for sharing all that. What would you say are the most common questions that you get from parents who are themselves diagnosed with and fighting cancer, in terms of like, what they’re worried about, as it pertains to parenting?

Kelsey Mora 5:35

Yeah, a lot of a lot of things, I think, so much is coming at parents when they first get a diagnosis. And, and yet most parents are just thinking, you know, what, what about my kids? What am I going to tell them? You know, do I have to tell them it? You know, what are they going to see experience? What language should I use, I don’t want them to be scared. And I think a big one that I get is, you know, I have to be strong for my kids. And a lot of times, I’m talking to parents about what being strong actually means. I think there’s a misconception that being strong means like, not talking about it or not showing your feelings. And in fact, that can be really important and empowering for kids to know that, you know, it’s okay to feel sad, it’s okay to also feel happy at moments when difficult things are happening, and that we can go through this together. So a lot of times just addressing those fears, and, and coaching parents on what they can say, you know, you don’t have any control over getting that diagnosis, but you can control how supported your kids feel and what you tell them.

Dr. Leigh Weisz 6:34

Wow, yeah, yeah, no, I mean, there’s so much to wrestle with. And obviously, different levels of severity and prognosis, you know, impact the the language and the tone and all of that too, I’m sure.

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