“Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.” Buddha

Lately I’ve been talking to parents who’ve been diagnosed with cancer and are looking at how to talk with their children.  The ages of these kids range from 3 years to 35 years.  As each one of us is unique, each of these families is one of a kind.  Yet, they all struggle with how to talk to their children about their cancer.

What do I say?

How much should I let them know?

When do I talk with them?

These are all common questions parents face as they contemplate a conversation with their kids.  It’s important to recognize that there is a huge difference between how you talk to a 3 year old as opposed to how you communicate with a  16 year old.  It’s also helpful to remember to think about who your child is as a person – sensitive and shy or  boisterous and active.  What sorts of activities does she relate to?  Does he communicate better with drawings or music than with words?  The individual capacities of your children, their developmental stages and their distinct personalities are the best information you can give yourself about how to talk with them.  Our most important job as a parent is to know who our children are.

No matter what the situation, it always seems to me that “less is more” when we talk to our kids.  At best you got a couple of minutes before their eyes glaze over!  Keep it simple and genuine.

  • Ask your kids how they are, what they feel, what they’re thinking.  Listen.
  • Prepare your talk – several sentences that are to the point and not loaded with too much information to take in at one time.
  • Reassure your kids that they can always talk with you when they are ready.
  • Be honest at whatever level is appropriate for your kids.
  • Let your kids know that they don’t need to take care of you.
  • Reassure them that they haven’t done anything wrong – that no one is guilty.

I’ve provided some links on how to talk with your kids about cancer that I hope will be of help to you as you open up these valuable conversations.

Tell the children the truth. Bob Marley