- Cancer Information
- Family and friends
- Talking to kids about cancer
- Living with advanced cancer
- What words should I use?
What words should I use?
If you need to prepare a child for the death of someone they care about, it can be hard to find the words to use. Learn some tips on answering specific questions.
Learn about the words you should use for:
cancer is diagnosed
|“Some people with this sort of cancer get better, but some don’t. I am going to do everything I can to get better.”|
|When end of life is near||“I am very sick now. The doctors say there isn’t any medicine that can make me better. We think that means I am going to die soon. We will try to spend some special quiet time together.”|
|To explain death||“When Grandma died, her body stopped working – she can’t breathe or move or cuddle you anymore. A dead body can’t come back to life. We won’t be able to see Grandma again, but we will always know she loved us.”|
cancer is diagnosed
|“Some people with this sort of cancer get better, but some don’t. I’m trying to do everything I can to treat the cancer, and I will always let you know how I’m feeling.”|
|When end of life is near||“The doctors say that the treatments have stopped working for me. There isn’t anything else they can do to make me better. We think that means I will die soon. We want to make the most of the time I have left.”|
|To explain death||“I have some very sad news to tell you. Grandma died last night. She can’t breathe or move anymore. Is there anything you’d like to know about how Grandma died?”|
cancer is diagnosed
|“Some people with this sort of cancer recover, but some don’t. I’m planning to do everything I can to keep the cancer under control, and I will always let you know how the treatments are going.”|
|When end of life is near||“The doctors say that the treatments haven’t worked for me. There isn’t anything else they can do to treat the cancer. We think that means I will die soon. We want to make the most of the time I have left.”|
|To explain death||“I have some very sad news to tell you; Grandma died last night. Is there anything you’d like to know about how Grandma died?”|
Podcast: Explaining Cancer to Kids
Prof Jane Turner AM, International Psycho-Oncology Society President Emeritus,The University of Queensland, QLD; Taylor Baker, Consumer; Dr Ben Britton, Principal Clinical and Health Psychologist, Head of Psychology, Hunter New England Mental Health, NSW; Camp Quality; Dr Lisa Cuddeford, Head of Department, WA Paediatric Palliative Care Service, Perth Children’s Hospital, WA; A/Prof Peter Downie, Head, Paediatric Haematology–Oncology and Director, Children’s Cancer Centre, Monash Children’s Hospital, VIC; Dr Sarah Ellis, Clinical Psychologist, Kids Cancer Centre, Sydney Children’s Hospital, NSW; Malia Emberson-Lafoa’i, Consumer; Kate Fernandez, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Jane Gillard, Consumer; Mary McGowan OAM, International Childhood Cancer Advocate, VIC; Annette Polizois, Senior Social Worker, Women, Family and Emergency Care Team, Royal North Shore Hospital, NSW; Rhondda Rytmeister, Clinical Psychologist, HeadWayHealth (formerly Snr Clinical Psychologist, The Cancer Centre for Children, Westmead, NSW); Nadine Street, Head of Social Work and Social Welfare, HNE Mental Health Service, NSW; Warren Summers, Online Counsellor, Canteen, NSW.
We would also like to thank the health professionals, consumers, organisations and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title, and we are grateful to the parents and young people whose real-life stories have added to the richness and relevance of this book.
We thank and acknowledge Dr Paula K. Rauch, MD, Founder and Director, Marjorie E. Korff PACT (Parenting At a Challenging Time) Program and Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, whose research and writing on helping parents talk to their children about cancer was used as source material for this book and has been adapted in several sections: pages 8–11, How children understand cancer; page 22, Answering key questions: Are you going to die?; page 26, Involving the school or preschool; pages 30–31, Hospital visits; and pages 36–37, Encouraging family time. We also thank the American Cancer Society for permission to use and adapt material on pages 8-11 from its book Cancer in Our Family: Helping children cope with a parent’s illness (2013); Macmillan Cancer Support for permission to use its book Talking to Children and Teenagers When an Adult Has Cancer (2013) as a source of information; Jessica Watt, Oncology Social Worker, The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, for her contribution on page 20, When another child has cancer; and Diane McGeachy, Hobart Counselling Centre, for contributing material for page 37, Spending one-on-one time.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.