- Cancer Information
- Advanced cancer
- Living with advanced cancer
- The people in your life
- Talking to children
Talking to children about advanced cancer
When you are told you have advanced cancer, one of the biggest worries may be how you will tell the young people in your life. It’s natural to want to protect children, but it is also important to let them know what is happening. They will often sense something has changed, and if they aren’t told what it is, they can become scared or anxious. Talk to them as soon as you feel ready.
If you’ve explained cancer and its treatment before, it might be easier to start a conversation. But you might find it hard to talk about the cancer spreading and being difficult to treat. It might be helpful to think ahead about the questions children may ask and prepare some suitable answers.
How to tell children about cancer
- Be honest and explain what you know about the cancer using straightforward words that suit their age.
- 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.
- Expect that children may respond differently depending on their age. This may range from displays of love and offers of help, to feeling guilty, withdrawal or acting out and bad behaviour.
- Discuss ways your children might be able to help you, while still managing their other commitments or responsibilities.
- Spend time with your children or grandchildren so you can create meaningful memories together.
For more on this, see Talking to kids about cancer.
Podcast: Explaining Cancer to Kids
Dr Lucy Gately, Medical Oncologist, Alfred Health and Walter and Eliza Institute for Medical Research, VIC; Dr Katherine Allsopp, Supportive and Palliative Care Specialist, Westmead Hospital, NSW; A/Prof Megan Best, The University of Notre Dame Australia and The University of Sydney, NSW; Dr Keiron Bradley, Palliative Care Consultant, Medical Director Palliative Care Program, Bethesda Health Care, WA; Craig Brewer, Consumer; Emeritus Professor Phyllis Butow, Psychologist, The University of Sydney and Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, NSW; Louise Durham, Palliative Care Nurse Practitioner Outpatients, Princess Alexandra Hospital, Metro South Palliative Care, QLD; Dr Roya Merie, Radiation Oncologist, ICON Cancer Centre, Concord, NSW; Penny Neller, Project Coordinator, National Palliative Care Projects, Australian Centre for Health Law Research, Queensland University of Technology, QLD; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Xanthe Sansome, Program Director, Advance Care Planning Australia, VIC; Sparke Helmore Lawyers; Peter Spolc, Consumer.
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