- Cancer Information
- Advanced cancer
- Facing end of life
- Emotional and spiritual concerns
- How to tell children
How to tell children
If you have children or grandchildren, telling them that you are dying will be difficult. There is no easy way to approach this conversation, but it is important to let them know what is happening.
Like adults, children of all ages need time to prepare for the death of someone close to them. It’s natural to want to protect children, but they will often sense that something has changed. Not sharing the prognosis can add to their anxiety – and yours.
How you tell your children or grandchildren will depend on their age, but these suggestions may help:
- It may be easier to have your partner or a support person with you when you have the initial discussion.
- Be honest with your children and explain the situation using straightforward words, such as “dying” and “death”. Avoid terms such as “pass away” or “going to sleep”, which can be confusing or alarming for them.
- Keep your explanations as simple as possible, and be guided by their questions so you don’t offer more information than they may want or can handle.
- Depending on their age, children may benefit from seeing a counsellor or play therapist.
Dr Megan Ritchie, Staff Specialist Palliative Medicine, Palliative Care Service, Concord Repatriation General Hospital, NSW; Gabrielle Asprey, Cancer Support Consultant, Cancer Council NSW; Rosemary Cavanough, Consumer; Louise Durham, Nurse Practitioner, Metro South Palliative Care Service, QLD; Tracey Gardner, Senior Psychologist, Cancer Counselling Service, Cancer Council Queensland; Karen Hall, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Linda Nolte, Program Director, Advance Care Planning Australia, VIC; Rowena Robinson, Clinical Advisor, Palliative Care Australia, ACT; Helena Rodi, Program Manager, Advance Care Planning Australia, VIC.
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