How to Talk to Your Kids About Your Cancer Diagnosis & Treatment

We know that even with the best support in the world, it can be extremely difficult to disclose and talk about your cancer diagnosis, especially with your own children. Despite all the uncertainty that lies ahead during your treatment and recovery, we can help out with simple tips to get you through the brave next steps to take. 

The Importance of Letting Your Kids Know

Kids of all ages are not given enough credit for how in-tune they can be with their surroundings. Chances are if you’ve been diagnosed for a while, your child can tell something is wrong. Keeping them in the dark can only cause more anxiety and confused feelings they won’t know how to process. You’ll want to be there to reassure them and be able to meet their needs in a way that is healthy for both of you. You don’t want to wait until treatment begins; it will only add stress in the back of your mind. 

If you have multiple children, it’s important to speak to each of them individually since they could each react in different ways. You’ll want to choose a time and place with no distractions whatsoever to help foster open communication. 

Simplify it for younger kids

Always use concepts and words that they already understand and don’t try to explain more than they’re cognitively able to. Depending on your diagnosis and what stage the cancer is at, it might be very hard to come to terms with the seriousness of your situation. Though you should spare them the small details they may not understand, you should always express that the adults and doctors are in charge and doing their best, so they feel a sense of security in that. If they have questions you don’t have the answer to, it’s okay to tell them that you don’t know the answer. Just always remind your child that nothing about your illness is their fault and assure them with unconditional love. 

Since it can be overwhelming news, let them know what they can do to help. This doesn’t mean having your kid help with your basic necessities- because you don’t want to burden them- but tell them that doing small chores around the house and doing well in school will make you proud and help you. They will be happy to make you happy during tough times. If your child starts acting out of character, or struggling emotionally, encourage them to talk to other trusted adults in their life for support. Not only that, but consider getting a therapist so they can get their feelings out in the open. Remind them that it’s totally okay to go through a range of emotions and help create an atmosphere of hope for them. 

Adult Children

You might want to discuss healthcare decisions, paying bills, getting medications and taking care of the house with your adult children. It’s necessary to figure out your living arrangements and how much you can and can’t do for yourself. If possible, rely on them or other family members for emotional support and ask them to explain medical information if you have trouble understanding. Going through chemotherapy can often mean difficulty concentrating and remembering, so you’ll need someone to help out. Exercise patience and understanding with your adult children, who are much more likely to suppress their feelings and try to ignore mental health issues which may arise. 

With both young and adult children, it’s important to prioritize your wellbeing so that you can empower the people around you. It’s okay to struggle, cry or be angry, but believing in family togetherness should strengthen bonds so that you are there for each other.

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