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Talking to Your Child about their Cancer

Talking to Your Child about their Cancer

Honest, calm, simple. 

By following those three guidelines, much of what you need to tell your child will become obvious.

Every child is different. Every age requires different amounts and kinds of communication. But the guidelines for what to tell your child about their cancer can be summed up with those three words.

Honesty builds trust, and that will be critical to your journey together. Tell your child about the diagnosis as soon as possible, and answer their questions as fully as their age will allow. Children who are not told what is happening may imagine the worst.

Be calm, even though it can be hard. Children also take their emotional cues from their parents. The more calm you are, the more calm they will be. 

Simple means explaining only as much as they are ready for about their diagnosis, treatment and prognosis. Younger children need simple information, how treatments will make them feel, when something will hurt and that these treatments have helped other children.The older they are, the more medical terms you can use and the more the child can participate in treatment decisions.

A couple of things children need to know right off? That it’s not contagious, and that getting cancer is not their fault.

According to the National Cancer Institute’s publication called Children with Cancer—a Guide for Parents, children need to know:

● About the cancer, how it will be treated, and what to expect during treatment

● How to manage and deal with painful treatments or procedures

● How to cope with feelings, get social support and feel in control

● That they are loved, supported, and surrounded by people who care about them

You can learn more at the National Cancer Institute website and at Cancer.net.