According to the American Cancer Society, children need information that will prepare them for what is about to happen to their parent and how it will affect them. Children ages 2-8 do not need a lot of detailed information, while older children, ages 9-12 and teens, need and deserve to know more.
What to Say
You should tell the truth and speak in such a way that children are able to understand and prepare themselves for the changes that will happen in the family. Kids want and need routine in their lives--it helps them feel safe. When life becomes unpredictable, they will need help in adjusting to the changes.
Here are some tips from ACS for what you should tell your children:
- The type of cancer, such as breast or lymphoma.
- The part of the body where the cancer is.
- How it will be treated.
- How their lives will be affected.
- Also, tell them no one caused the parent to get cancer.
- You can't catch it, like you would a cold or the flu, so it's OK to hug and kiss.
- The family will work together to cope with the cancer and its treatment.
- Even though the parent is sick, the children will still be loved and taken care of.