Telling your children that you have breast cancer can be difficult. Few children understand the idea of cancer, and when it becomes part of their family life they need reassurance and support.
Children are very perceptive and they can often sense if something is wrong. Sometimes if children don’t understand a situation they can blame themselves. Children can also feel isolated and upset if no one explains to them what is happening.
Children as young as four will have a basic understanding of illness. Talking openly with your children about your breast cancer and giving it a name will help them come to terms with the facts.
Younger children may need to be told the same information multiple times. Try to respect their questions, even if you’ve already answered them. To cope well with the situation, children usually need:
Most children will want to be told that they can still do normal things, such as go to school, play sport and see friends. If your child is in primary school, it is a good idea to tell their teacher. If your child is in secondary school, they may not want their teachers to know. If this is the case, try to respect your older child’s wishes and encourage them to talk to their friends and family members about what they are feeling. Counselling can also be a great support for older children.
Psychiatrist Associate Professor Jane Turner has the following advice for helping your child come to terms with your breast cancer diagnosis:
Initially, I tried to hide what was happening to me from my daughter. But I realised that she needed to know. When I explained things in small pieces she coped well.
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*This article does not provide medical advice and is intended for informational purposes only.
Please consult a medical professional or healthcare provider if you're seeking medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment.