Anyone who has kids will know that you just can’t fool them. If you’ve ever tried to keep the fantasy of Santa Claus real for the sake of a younger sibling, you’ll know just how hard it can be!
When someone is diagnosed with cancer, adults are sometimes unsure about discussing the situation with children. However, no matter how hard you try to hide a cancer diagnosis, most children will suspect something is wrong.
Parents and other adults can feel overwhelmed by their own anxiety and fears, and their first impulse may be to protect children from feeling those same strong emotions. Even if it’s not a parent who has cancer but a close relative, such as a grandparent, this can cause stress that kids will usually pick up on. A straightforward and honest discussion can actually make children feel more secure.
Children who are told about the illness of someone important to them tend to cope better than children who are kept in the dark. A lack of information can lead to increased distress. If your kids suspect there’s a serious problem and you haven’t told them about it, they may make up their own explanation. They will then spend a lot of their coping energy on adjusting to this imagined situation, which will often be worse than the reality.
Cancer Council NSW has created a downloadable book to guide you through difficult conversations. The book provides evidence-based, practical strategies that can build upon your existing strengths and knowledge. Each chapter of the book explores a particular aspect of discussing cancer with children – for example, talking about treatment.
Sometimes it may take a few attempts before you find the best way for your family. Remember that you are the expert on your children, and your understanding of their individual personalities and needs can guide you.