Why is it important to tell children about a loved one's cancer?
Cancer is a very difficult secret to keep from children. Often children will know something is wrong. They may sense your worry, or overhear your conversations, or unknowingly, friends may talk to them about it before you do. Without appropriate, accurate information, children may imagine the worst. In addition, if you keep information from them at first, they may not trust that you are telling them the truth later on.
What and how you tell children about cancer depends on their age. The goal should be to talk to them at a level they can understand and in a way that they can be prepared for the ways they may be affected. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), all children need to know:
It is also important to talk with them and reassure them about other worries they might have. Some common concerns that children have voiced include:
Include your loved one in the conversation if possible. Choose a time when you are feeling calm and your emotions are feeling under control. There is nothing wrong, however, with letting them know that you are sad or upset or worried. Encourage them to express their feelings and emotions - anger, fear, and guilt.
Many children will ask whether their loved one is going to die. This is a very difficult question to answer and depends on many things. With ovarian cancer, the answer will depend on how advanced the cancer was at diagnosis and how well your loved one responds to treatment. Even if the cancer comes back, many women live with ovarian cancer for many years. Here are some examples provided by the American Cancer Society of how to respond to a child's questions about whether his or her loved one is going to die.
The following websites, pamphlets and books are excellent resources for more information on talking with children about cancer.
Other titles available from the American Cancer Society at 1-800-ACS-2345:
Additional information about resources and services available for children in your community may be found at your local library, physician's office or cancer treatment center.