Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Child's Talk: Sharing News of a Cancer Diagnosis

Among the many difficult questions parents face when diagnosed with cancer is, “What do I tell my children?” Talking to a child about a parent’s, grandparent’s, or sibling’s cancer and how it will affect the family isn’t easy, but it is necessary. By talking to your children honestly and helping them express their emotions, you make it easier for them to feel safe and secure.

Sharing information early on will help build trust. Some tips that you might consider when talking to your children about your diagnosis include:

*Prepare what to say by either writing it down or practicing what you want to say before your first conversation. Timing is also important, and finding a quiet time when your children are rested can make the conversation less stressful.

*Speak with your older children first if you have children of different ages, as the older children might want to help when you tell your younger children.

*Set a tone because what you say is as important as how you say it.

*Keep it brief; most children have short attention spans

*Be honest

*Consider your child’s age and use age appropriate language

*Reassure you children and let them know what they are feeling is normal and okay. It might be helpful to ask what they have heard about cancer so that you can clarify any information that might be incorrect.

Even at a very young age, children can sense when something is wrong. If not told the truth, they might imagine things worse than they really are, or that they might be the cause of the problem. Little people can have big ears and hearing broken conversations about things that they don’t understand can increase their fears. It is for these reasons that having a talk with your children will help everyone in the family so that the channels of communication remain open.

What advice do you have for sharing this news with children? What lessons have you learned?

~ Shannon, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center


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