It is normal to feel a sense of worry when you think about talking to your kids about cancer. Many parents worry their children will not understand or will have a hard time coping with the news. It may be helpful for you to plan what you want to say in advance by thinking about your goals for the conversation.
What children need to know depends on their age. The American Cancer Society says young children, up to 8 years old, will not need a lot of detailed information, while older children, between 8 to 12 years, will need to know more. Use age-appropriate language to discuss cancer with your children.
Keep in mind, kids are great at sensing when something is wrong — even if you think they don’t know. Children often pick up on cues from their parent’s body language and even from conversations they overhear. It is better for you to be open and honest with your child than for them to come to their own interpretations about what they think is going on.
Here are some tips for communicating with your children about cancer:
Remember, there is no perfect way to have this conversation, so do your best. Be prepared to have brief, frequent conversations about the topic and keep all lines of communication open. Let your children know that you will be there to answer any questions they may have.
Finally, tell your children how much you love them and let them know how they can help. The National Comprehensive Cancer Network says some families are able to transform the cancer experience into a positive journey and develop deeper connections with one another. Reassure your children that your family will work together to help one another through this difficult time.
What are ways you’ve seen families cope? Tell us in the below comments.
Find a cancer support group.
Learn more about cancer services at Edward-Elmhurst Health.
If you have reached this screen, your current device or browser is unable to access the full Edward-Elmhurst Health Web site.
To see the full site, please upgrade your browser to the most recent version of Safari, Chrome, Firefox or Internet Explorer. If you cannot upgrade your browser, you can remain on this site.