Living with cancer blog

Tips for talking with your children about cancer

By Sheryl M. Ness, R.N. April 22, 2010

It's never easy to talk with your family and friends about your cancer diagnosis, but when you have children it's even more difficult. Over the years, I've worked with many parents who have wanted to know the best way to approach the subject with their children.

Some ideas to consider:

  • Take in mind the age and maturity of your child. What do they relate to? What might work for one child, may not work for another. If they're at the age when they're reading books, you may want to get a book that describes what cancer is in very simple terms. If they're an older child or teen, they really just need you to be honest with them and give them facts, while at the same time reassuring them that you'll be there for them.
  • Describe any physical changes that might occur during treatment, such as hair loss, fatigue, loss of appetite, etc.
  • Let them know that you'll communicate openly with them as best you can about what's happening.
  • Keep a daily routine if possible as children find much comfort in this.
  • If you have more than one child, try to schedule one on one time with each of them to make sure to keep those special moments together. You'll find that it's during these moments that they might talk about their fears or ask questions they might have been too shy to ask in front of others.

It might also be a good idea to look for resources to assist you in communicating this news; such as books, DVDs, peer support groups, and even weekend camps. Most of all, be supportive and open with their questions and concerns. Keep the lines of communication open and continue the hugs, love and support.

Please share your experiences and suggestions.


Sheryl M. Ness, R.N.

Follow on Twitter: @SherylNess1

April 22, 2010