COMMUNICATING WITH YOUR CHILDREN
Relationships & Caregiving
Your cancer diagnosis has a major impact on your entire family. Children can have many different reactions when a parent or relative has cancer, including fear, confusion, guilt or anger. Let your children know that no feelings are ever wrong. Whatever they feel is okay and normal, and feelings can change from day to day. According to the American Cancer Society, young children (up to 8 years old) will not need a lot of detailed information, while older children and teens need to know more. All children need the following basic information: • The name of the cancer, such as breast cancer or lymphoma • The part of the body where the cancer is • How it will be treated • How their own lives will be affected American Cancer Society has more recommendations for talking to your children, including words that you can use to define some of cancer’s terminology: cancer.org or 1-800-227-2345. CancerCare (www.cancercare.org) offers tips for communicating with your children, including: • Explain the treatment plan and how it will affect their lives. Prepare your children for any physical changes you might go through during treatment and tell them how their needs will be met (for example, Grandma will take you to soccer practice or Dad will pick you up from school). • Answer your children’s questions as accurately as possible. Allow them to ask any questions they want, and encourage them to express their feelings. • Reassure your children. Explain to them that they could never cause you to have cancer and they cannot “catch” cancer like they can catch a cold. Listen to their concerns, and ask them if anything you said scared them or didn’t make sense. • Let them know they can turn to people in your support system. Remind them who is in their life who can help them deal with their feelings about you having cancer or to ask questions and express concerns. • Allow your children to participate in your care. Give them tasks they can do, such as making you a cup of tea, or bringing you a glass of water or an extra blanket.