Talking to Kids about Breast Cancer
by Mariève Inoue
published October 06, 2008
rating: (55 Ratings)
Telling people you have a serious illness is never easy, but it can be especially hard when it comes to your children. Should you be upfront with them? Should you go into detail about the disease? Read on for tips on addressing the topic with them.
1. Wait until you are ready. A diagnosis such as any kind of cancer or serious illness can be hard to process, and you are bound to go through different reactions. Wait until you have come to terms with your own emotions before thinking about telling your kids; this will ensure you can stay calm and pay attention to their needs when approaching the topic with them.
2. Be honest. The idea of sharing the news with your children may seem scary at first, but it’s important for them to know that there is something wrong. You don’t have to go into the nitty gritty details—it all depends on how old and how mature they are. The idea is not to scare them, but rather to let them know that you will need their support and understanding. Also, if you come to need their help at some point or your condition should worsen, at least it won’t come as such a shock.
3. Think it through. Before breaking the news to them, decide how much information you want to share, and the extent to which you go into detail about your situation. Think about how you will word what you will say so as not to scare them.
Younger kids may have trouble understanding the gravity of the situation, so keep it simple, and reassure them that you are still the same mommy who loves them, but that you’ll need them to be on extra good behaviour.
You can explain the illness to bigger kids a bit more in detail, but make sure not to give them too much information—stick to the basics. They’ll ask questions if they feel like they need to know more.
4. Have answers ready. Children are bound to ask a lot of questions, so have your answers ready depending on what you’ve decided to share with them about your illness. This way, you won’t be caught off guard when they do ask about what is going on.
5. Tell others about your decision. Discuss what you will be telling the kids with your partner; you can also let other adults around you know how much of your illness you’ve shared with the children. This will avoid awkward situations where people are unsure of whether they can address the topic in front of the kids; it will also avoid your children learning more about your illness than you want them to from other people.
6. Talk to the teacher. You may want to let your child’s teacher know about your situation (how much detail you go into is up to you); this way, he or she will be ready to deal with any reactions your child may have at school in regards to your illness or to certain topics being covered in class.
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