Talking about the diagnosis

When you first learn of a cancer diagnosis, you may feel shocked and overwhelmed. Among the many decisions you need to make will be when, where and how to talk to the children and young people in your life. However you decide to approach the conversation, try to be open and honest and leave kids with a feeling of hope.

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When should I tell my children?

It’s common to feel unsure of the best time to tell your children; often there may be no right time. You may wonder if you should tell them soon after you’ve been told yourself, or wait until you have more details about test results and treatment.

Although it is tempting to delay talking to your kids, try to tell them as soon as you feel able. Keeping the diagnosis a secret can be stressful, and your children will probably sense that something is wrong.

It’s also a good idea to tell children if:

  • you think they may have overheard a conversation
  • they are scared by adults crying
  • they are shocked or confused by physical or emotional changes in the person who has cancer, especially if the person has symptoms such as frequent vomiting, weight loss or hair loss, or is admitted to hospital for immediate treatment
  • you notice changes in their behaviour.

It may be hard to decide how much information to share, particularly if you are waiting on test results. Your children don’t need to hear everything all at once. If you don’t know what treatment is required, just say so – but also assure your children that as soon as you have more information you will tell them. For example, “Dad is in hospital to have some tests. We’re not sure yet what’s wrong, but when we do know we will tell you.”

Let children and young people know it’s okay to have questions at different times, such as during treatment, when you are managing side effects and later during recovery, and to talk about how they feel at anytime.

  — James, aged 12


Where should I tell my children?

Try to find some time when you won’t be interrupted or have to rush off without answering all their questions.

Many people find that bringing up the topic while doing something else – like walking the dog or washing dishes – can help reduce the tension. This approach may be less intimidating than sitting the family down for a formal discussion.

Talking to children before bedtime or before an important event may not be a good idea. Ideally, you should tell them at a time and in a place where they are more likely to listen and take in the news.


Should I tell them together?

Depending on the ages and temperaments of your children, you may decide to tell them individually or together. You may need to use different language because of their age. If you decide to tell them separately, try to tell them on the same day. Asking older children to keep the diagnosis a secret from younger siblings can add to their stress.


Who should tell my children?

Deciding on the person to tell the children is another thing to consider. In most cases, it is easier if the information comes from someone who is close to your children. Ideally, that will be the parent who has cancer, the other parent or both of you together.

However, this is not always possible. Another adult close to your children, such as a grandparent, aunt, uncle or friend, may be able to tell them or be there when you tell them. This may be particularly important if you’re a single parent. You may also decide to break the news with the support of a member of your health care team, such as your general practitioner (GP) or social worker.

Looking after yourself

Telling children and young people about a cancer diagnosis can be confronting and difficult. You may have trouble helping your kids deal with the news if you’re struggling yourself. You may be facing both emotional and physical challenges and you will have to make many decisions, but you don’t have to do this alone.

  • Wait until your initial feeling of shock has eased before attempting the conversation.
  • Talk to a few trusted adults beforehand – this will allow you to express your own feelings and start getting used to the news yourself.
  • Make a list of things that other people can do for you. Family and friends are often keen to help out, but usually need guidance on what to do.
  • Ask a friend to coordinate offers of help.

See Involving others for more information about involving others. There are also many support services for people who are newly diagnosed with cancer.


Click on the icon below to download a PDF booklet on talking to kids about cancer


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Different ways to download an EPUB file to your Apple device:

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Need more help? Visit: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4059

Kobo

To download an EPUB file to your Kobo from a Windows computer:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • select “Open folder to view files” to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

To download an EPUB to your Kobo from a Mac:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • open your “Finder” application.
  • select “Kobo eReader” from the listed devices to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, probably in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

Turn on your Kobo and your EPUB will be located in “eBooks”, while a PDF will be located in “Documents”.
Need more information? Visit: http://www.kobo.com/help/koboaura/response/?id=3784&type=3

Sony Reader

To download an EPUB file on your Sony Reader™:

  • ensure you have already installed the Reader™ Library for PC/Mac software
  • select the eBook you want from our website and click the link to download it.
  • connect the Reader™ to your computer.
  • open the Reader™ Library software and click “Library” in the left-hand pane and select the eBook to view it.

Need more help? Visit: https://au.readerstore.sony.com/apps_and_devices/

Amazon Kindle 2nd Generation devices

EPUB files can’t be read on the Amazon Kindle™. However, like most eReaders, Kindle™ 2nd Generation devices are able to display PDFs. We recommend that you download the PDF version of this booklet if you would like to read it on a Kindle™.
To transfer a PDF to your Kindle™ via USB cable from your computer or Mac:

  • download the PDF directly onto your computer.
  • connect the USB cable to your computer’s USB port, and the micro USB end of the cable to your Kindle™. Note: the Kindle™ won’t be available as a reading device while it is connected to your computer until it has been disconnected.
  • open the Kindle™ drive and several folders will appear inside. The “Documents” folder is where you will need to copy or drag the PDF to.
  • safely eject your Kindle™ from your computer and unplug the USB cable. Your content will appear on the Home Screen.

Kindle also provides a Kindle Personal Documents Service that allows users to send documents as an attachment directly to your eReader. For more information on this service, visit http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=help_search_1-1?ie=UTF8&nodeId=200767340&qid=1395967989&sr=1-1
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit www.amazon.com/manageyourkindle, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
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Android and PC

You can also download and open eBooks on Android devices and PCs with appropriate apps or software installed. Suitable eReader apps for Android include Google Play Books, FBReader and Moon+ Reader. Suitable software for PCs include Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions.


This information was last reviewed in December 2018
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