How Do I Tell My Children I Have Cancer?
Breaking the news to your child that you have cancer is an emotional roller coaster and there are no absolute right or wrong ways to do it. It’s like so much of life and parenting — you do the best you can.
Contributor: Josette Snyder, BSN, MSN, AOCN.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
Breaking the news to your child that you have cancer can be an emotional roller coaster. And there are no absolute right or wrong ways to do it. It’s like so much of life and parenting — you do the best you can.
One of the first things that parents should know is that the words you use aren’t as important as simply letting your child know that you’re there for them. Also it’s important to trust yourself. You know your kids best and what they can handle. Let your instincts be your main guide.
Here are more strategies that can help you through the tough topic.
First, try to give yourself a little time before having the conversation when you break the news. Allow yourself to process the news and get a handle on it before talking to your children.
Other things to consider:
When you do tell your children you have cancer, be honest and direct. Don’t be afraid to use the word cancer. Kids, no matter their age, sense when something’s wrong and you’re not telling them the truth, which only makes their fears worse.
Other tips to keep in mind:
Children of different ages react differently to the news of a cancer diagnosis. Remember: trust yourself. You know your children best. Be there for them and keep the conversation going.