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How to talk to kids about cancer

June 29, 2022

A cancer diagnosis can be a difficult thing for adults to wrap their heads around and can be even more challenging for a child to understand. No one wants to have a conversation about themselves or a loved one being diagnosed with cancer with a child, but they deserve to know what is going on and why their family life or social life may experience some changes. 

We’re going to look at how you can approach talking about cancer through the lense of a parent who has been diagnosed, but these tips can also serve parents who need to tell their children about the diagnosis of a loved one such as a grandparent, sibling, or close family friend. 

Talking About the Diagnosis

While it can be very tempting to hide scary things from your children, they may know something is wrong before you inform them of your cancer diagnosis. Kids are very perceptive and including them in your diagnosis can help maintain trust in your relationship and help them feel less afraid. As an added bonus, you’ll take a lot of stress and worry off your plate by having this understandably dreaded conversation. 

Here’s a few tips for making telling your children about your cancer diagnosis or the diagnosis of a loved one easier:

Talking About the Treatment

You don’t want to overwhelm your children by throwing a lot of information at them at once which is why you may wait to have a second conversation later about what your treatment may involve. If they ask you about treatment during your initial conversation you can walk them through a condensed version of what to expect, but may want to save some of the more intense details until later.

Here’s a few things to keep in mind when discussing your treatment.

Resources

Parents dealing with cancer will need ongoing support for their children after these initial conversations. Here are a few resources you can turn to for extra help.