Coping with kids’ reactions

It’s natural for children and young people to have lots of different reactions to a cancer diagnosis. Talking with them about their reaction gives you a chance to discuss ways of managing their emotions.


If your children cry, let them know it’s a natural reaction. Holding them will help them feel secure. Let them know that they don’t have to “be strong”, and that feeling sad after a cancer diagnosis is common.


Some children will worry endlessly. It can be hurtful if they start to avoid or ignore the person who has cancer. Explain that the person with cancer is still the same person, despite any changes in appearance.

Children may also worry that they’re going to be abandoned by their sick parent or by their well parent. Reassure them that they will always be cared for. Help your child deal with their concerns by giving them a chance to talk about their fears.


It is natural for children and young people to feel angry about the diagnosis as it means their lives could be disrupted.

Younger children may be annoyed if asked to play quietly. Older children may seem angry and uncooperative if asked to help out more. Both may be disappointed or upset if a planned holiday has to be postponed or cancelled.

No reaction 

Sometimes children will appear not to have heard the news or do not react. You may be confused or hurt by this, especially if it took some planning and courage to share the diagnosis.

A lack of reaction isn’t unusual – often the children are protecting themselves and need some time to digest the information. Or they may want to protect you from seeing how they are feeling. Remind them that they can talk to you about it anytime.

You may need to talk again if the situation or their behaviour has changed since you first talked. Sometimes, despite your efforts to help your children cope, they may struggle with the diagnosis. See the box below for services that can help children whose family members have cancer.

Support for children and young adults

Camp Quality

Camp Quality supports children living with cancer and their families, and children who have a parent with cancer. Their Kids’ Guide to Cancer app is aimed at children aged 8–13 who have a parent, sibling or friend with cancer. It answers the big questions about cancer and includes stories from other children. Camp Quality also offers a free educational puppet show for schools and organises recreation  programs, camps and family experiences. Call 1300 662 267 or visit


CanTeen helps young people aged 12–25 who are dealing with their own or a close family member’s cancer. Young people can connect with others online; access counselling face-to-face, by phone, email or online; get specialist, in-hospital treatment; and take part in programs, camps and recreation days – all to help them cope with the impact of cancer. To find out more about CanTeen, call 1800 835 932 or visit

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

Printed copies are available for free - Call 13 11 20 to order

Instructions for downloading and reading EPUB files

Apple devices

The iBooks application must be installed on your Apple device before you can read the EPUB.
Different ways to download an EPUB file to your Apple device:

  • email EPUB files to yourself and transfer the attachment to iBooks.
  • copy EPUB files into DropBox (or a similar service) and use the DropBox app to send them to iBooks.
  • open EPUB files directly from Mobile Safari and open them in iBooks, where they are saved automatically by downloading the EPUB from the website.

Need more help? Visit:


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:

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:

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
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
Need more help? Visit

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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Support services

Coping with cancer?
Speak to a health professional or to someone who has been there, or find a support group or forum

Looking for transport, accommodation or home help?
Practical advice and support during and after treatment

Cancer information

Dealing with the diagnosis
Common reactions to a cancer diagnosis and how to find hope

View our publications
Guides and fact sheets for people with cancer, their families and friends