Episode 5: Explaining Cancer to Kids

4 July 2017

Expert interviewed:
John Friedsam, CanTeen Australia

John and JulieResearch shows that telling children about your diagnosis and treatment can provide reassurance, not just for them, but for the whole family – but how do you know what to say?

In this episode of The Thing About Cancer podcast, Julie chats to CanTeen’s John Friedsam about different ways to talk about your cancer diagnosis with your kids. John tells us why being open with kids can actually help them cope better and gives us some great tips on how to talk to kids of all ages about cancer. We also hear from Suzanne, a mother who had to explain her breast cancer diagnosis and treatment to her children.

Suzanne, mother of two, diagnosed with breast cancer 

Listen to Explaining Cancer to Kids now, or find more episodes here.


Use your communication strengths 

John points out that every parent has a unique relationship with each of their children, so you need to open up the conversation differently with each one – think of what they relate to. Do they like sport? Are they creative? What are your own communication strengths?

 – John Friedsam, CanTeen Australia 

Keep it simple 

You’ll hear some great examples of simple explanations and hands-on demonstrations for younger children, and why setting up a “communication contract” can be a great way to stay connected with teenagers.

When to get support 

John also talks about how to see the signs that your child is struggling to deal with your diagnosis, and where you can turn for support.


Want more information or support? 

If you heard something mentioned in the podcast, you’ll find a link for it below. We’ve also added links to other sources of information and support.

From Cancer Council NSW 

From other organisations 

  • Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 – 24-hour telephone and online counselling for young people aged 5–25
  • Lifeline 13 11 14 – 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention
  • CanTeen – support for young people aged 12–24 living with cancer, children and siblings of people with cancer, and young people bereaved due to a cancer-related death
  • Camp Quality – services to build optimism and resilience in children aged 0–13 who are living with cancer themselves or have a sibling or parent with cancer
  • Young Carers – camps, activities and support groups for kids who care for a parent with a serious illness
  • Kids’ Guide to Cancer – Camp Quality’s free educational app for children aged 8–13 who have a parent, sibling or other loved one with cancer – addresses the big questions kids have about cancer

Listen to Explaining Cancer to Kids now, or find more episodes here.

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