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Cancer Health Center

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Cancer Support: Family, Friends, and Relationships - Topic Overview

Talking to your children

If you have children, you're probably worried about how they will deal with the news of your diagnosis. But it's important to talk to children of all ages about your cancer. And it's best not to pretend that everything is okay. Even young children will see that you're tired or that your routine has changed.

Try to pick a time to talk when both you and your children are feeling calm. If possible, have your partner there during the talk, or ask a friend or relative to be with you.

How much you tell your children will depend on their ages and what kind of information they can handle. Encourage them to ask questions, and answer their questions as honestly as you can.

  • Very young children only need to be told that you are sick and that your doctors are helping to make you better.
  • Young children won't need a lot of information. Remember that they usually don't have the experience to understand why cancer is so scary. Tell your children the name of the cancer you have and what part of your body it is in. Use words and terms they can understand. Give your children time to ask questions and express how they feel. Look for books or other materials that can help you explain to your children what is happening. Reassure your children that no matter what happens, someone will take care of them.
  • Teenagers are generally struggling to become independent from their parents. Finding out that you have cancer may make that process more difficult. Tell your teens what type of cancer you have, what part of your body it is in, and what type of treatment you will have. Give teens plenty of chances to talk to you. Encourage them to talk to other adults and to spend time with their friends. Be honest, and answer their questions as well as you can. Tell them how they can help you.

Talking to adult family members

Be honest with adult children, siblings, parents, and your partner. Discuss your options with them. Make sure they know your wishes for treatment and other major decisions. Make the most of your time with them, and share your feelings.

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Cancer Support: Family, Friends, and Relationships Topics

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