As a parent, what do you tell your child about breast cancer? Many believe that children are too young to receive such difficult news. So how do you do it? Age can have a lot to do with your approach. For younger kids, try using a storybook or let them act things out using dolls or toys. For older children, allow them to openly express their concerns and help answer their questions as honestly as possible. Regardless of age, it is important to include the following things.
- What is the name of the cancer? Try to keep it relatively simple. You don’t need to say triple negative metastatic breast cancer, you can just say breast cancer that travels to other parts of the body.
- Where is the cancer? What will it be affecting? Explain the changes your child may see. Will there be hair or weight loss? Will you be getting any ports or surgeries?
- How are the doctors going to treat it? Again, keep it simple. Big words like chemotherapy are hard for a child to understand. You can simply say that doctors have special medicine that will make me sick, but that means it is working.
- What changes are going to be happening in the child’s life? Reassure the child that you will still be involved in their life. Offer to include them as well. Give them “special responsibilities” to make them feel helpful and included. In addition, keep their daily routine as close to normal as possible.
- Reassure the child that it is not their fault: A lot of time, children feel like they are in some way responsible for their parent having breast cancer. Explain to them that breast cancer sometimes just happens and it has nothing to do with what they’ve done.
No matter what approach you use, remember to be honest. Honesty is a very important part of any parent-child relationship because it helps build trust. If the child has questions make sure that you take the time to answer the questions honestly while still providing them reassurance.
Still have questions about how to talk to your child about breast cancer? Click here for age specific communication tips and storybook options. To see more storybook options click here. Visit here for how to help children when a family member has cancer. For 10 quick tips on telling your kids about cancer, click here. Here is a short video for your children to watch about mom having breast cancer.