- Cancer Information
- Coping with a diagnosis
- Emotions and cancer
- The others in your life
- Telling children
When you are diagnosed with cancer, one of your concerns might be how to tell your children, grandchildren or other young people in your life. Talking to young kids or teenagers about cancer can feel difficult and overwhelming.
Parents and other adults can feel overcome by their own anxiety and fears, and their first impulse may be to protect children from feeling these same strong emotions. Some parents avoid telling their children they have cancer. Others wait until treatment starts and side effects, such as hair loss or nausea, are noticeable.
Most children sense that something is wrong even if they don’t know what it is. When they are not told what is going on, children may imagine the worst. They may also find out from someone else, and this may leave them feeling angry and confused.
When someone close to them is diagnosed with cancer, children usually cope better if they are told in a way that is appropriate for their age and stage of development. With planning, practice and support from family or health professionals, most parents and other adults are able to talk to kids about cancer.
Older children may worry about burdening you with how they are feeling, so make sure they have a trusted person outside the immediate circle who they can talk to about the situation.
Sooner or later they were going to find out. Why not tell them straightaway? I tell them frankly what is happening. I think they find it much easier to cope because they are ready for things.
Dr Anna Hughes, Liaison Psychiatrist and Psycho-oncologist, Canberra Region Cancer Centre, Canberra Hospital, ACT; Mary Bairstow, Senior Social Worker, Cancer Centre, Fiona Stanley Hospital, WA; Anita Bamert, Psychologist, Cancer Council Queensland, QLD; Kate Barber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Victoria, VIC; Sally Carveth, Assistant Coordinator, Cancer Support Leader Program, Cancer Council NSW; Matt Featherstone, Consumer; Dr Charlotte Tottman, Clinical Psychologist, Allied Consultant Psychologists and Flinders University, SA; Shirley Witko, Senior Social Worker, Comprehensive Cancer Centre, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, WA.
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