How Do You Tell Your Little Kids You Have Cancer? My Story of Breaking the News

Mother talking to son and daughter - Cancer diagnosis

As a parent facing a cancer diagnosis, one of the toughest tasks is finding the right words to explain the situation to your young children. I recently found myself in this exact situation with my 4-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son, who has neurodiversity, adding an extra layer of complexity to the conversation.

With my first round of chemotherapy approaching, I faced the daunting task of having “the talk”. I had been putting it off, grappling with the overwhelming question: How do I tell my young children about my cancer diagnosis? Or even more so, how do I convey its seriousness without frightening them? It felt like an impossible challenge, one I had been avoiding for as long as I could.

Here’s how I finally approached it.

How I Broke the Cancer Diagnosis News to My Kids

“Kids, you’ve noticed Mommy going to the hospital a lot lately, right? Well, that’s because Mommy has been attacked by some big bad germs. These germs are much stronger than the ones that give us fevers or stomach aches. But guess what? Mommy’s going to be just like a superhero and fight those germs with some super-strong medicine. Just like Thor has his magic hammer and Tinker Bell has her magic pixie dust, Mommy has her medicine.

Sometimes, I’ll have to go to the hospital a lot to get my medicine for fighting against the big bad germs. And when I’m home, I might not feel like myself. I might be in bed more often or not in the best mood. But that’s because the medicine is working hard to fight the germs and make Mommy better.

One thing you might notice is that my hair might start to fall out. Or even my eyebrows and eye lashes. But don’t worry! It’s just part of the battle. And here’s something cool: I might even wear hats or scarves, just like superheroes wear capes.

But I can’t do this alone. I need your help. You can help me fight these big bad germs by being extra kind and helpful. Try to keep the house quiet sometimes, listen to Dad, and let others help out with things I usually do for you.”

Having this conversation wasn’t easy, but it was important for my kids to understand what’s happening and how they can support me. After all, it’s a journey we’re all on together, and with their love and understanding, I knew I was stronger than ever. 💪❤️

But beyond my personal experience, here are some additional pointers for having this or any other big conversation with your own little kids:

  1. Emphasize the Importance of Feelings: Let your children know that it’s okay to feel sad, scared, or confused about what’s happening. Encourage them to share their feelings with you or another trusted adult.
  2. Reassure Them About Your Love: Remind your children that your love for them remains unchanged, even though Mommy might be going through a tough time. Let them know that they can always come to you for hugs and cuddles when they need them.
  3. Answer Questions Honestly: Be open to answering any questions your children may have, to the best of your ability. If you don’t know the answer, reassure them that you’ll find out together.
  4. Include Hopeful Messages: Along with explaining the challenges ahead, include messages of hope and optimism. Let your children know that many people overcome cancer and that you’re determined to be one of them.
  5. Highlight Support Systems: Mention the friends, family, and healthcare professionals who are there to help and support your family throughout this journey. Let your children know that they’re not alone.
  6. Maintain Routine: Emphasize that while some things might change, like Mommy’s schedule or appearance, many things will stay the same. Keeping a consistent routine can provide comfort and stability for young children.
  7. Encourage Expression: Encourage your children to express themselves creatively through drawing, writing, or play. This can help them process their emotions and fears in a healthy way.
  8. Celebrate Small Victories: As you progress through your treatment, celebrate each milestone and small victory together as a family. This can help foster a sense of resilience and optimism in your children.

By incorporating these additional ideas into your conversation, you can provide your children with a more comprehensive understanding of what’s happening and how they can navigate this challenging time alongside you.

Need support or advice on navigating tough conversations with your children? Talk to me. I’m here to help.

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