Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Discussing Cancer with Children

A friend of mine brought this question up to me today and my mind started going a mile a minute and felt it was something that needs to be discussed. I do not have children of my own, but I have children in my life that I feel are mine because they have helped make me who I am today.

Depending on the age of the child I think really determines the depth in which the conversation goes, when I was asked about my hair by my favorite 3 year old I just explained that I was sick and the medicine that I had to take made my hair fall out. I fully understand that her mind could have easily wondered into the fear that her medicine would make her hair fall out but it never did, she was fully satisfied with the answer. I didn't sugar coat anything, I gave her the most simple answer I could come up with on the fly and if she had asked me more I would have told her more truths on the 3 year old level.

I never had to talk to my favorite 8 year old about cancer after I was diagnosed because his mother did and I have to say that she did an excellent job. She was truthful and explained that I was sick but that people with cancer are healed and used the example of his teacher because she is a young adult breast cancer survivor. I find it important not to bring up death until necessary because children need comforting not given more things to worry about when they probably already know something is "off"

Children are delicate and only you know how to talk to your own child or children that you care for or who may ask questions to you. When thinking about writing this post I did a quick online search and I found what I felt was good advice:

No matter what their age, it's important to talk with children about what's going on because:

  • They might sense that something is wrong and wonder if it is their "fault."
  • Their imaginations may create something worse than what is actually happening.
  • They may hear it from someone outside the family and feel disappointed that you withheld this important information from them.
  • Knowing what is happening will prepare them to support you during treatment and to understand that things are not quite "normal" for a while. 
Found here Talking with Children about Cancer

Other Resources for parents with cancer who have children:
Camp Kesem 


  1. "... I was asked about my hair by my favorite 3 year old I just explained that I was sick and the medicine that I had to take made my hair fall out ... "
    Reading that brought tears to my eyes Rebecca - it took me straight into the world of very young children. It's another world, where many dogs are bigger than you are, and you have your favorite dolls and teddies and adults, and you have no adult experience of the world whatever.

    I'm glad you had good experiences with your favorite 3 and 8 year olds. Sounds like a good answer to your 3 year-old friend, particularly on the fly. It's your natural skills with children coming to the fore :)

    I wonder what little children would do if they pulled your wig or head-scarf off and they hadn't seen your head bald before. Be a bit of a surprise I would imagine. If I remember correctly Heather on pc described very young children she was teaching or minding as "very grabby".

    I suppose you would get used to children staring at you a bit if you're walking around in public without a head cover. I guess even the gaze of adults might linger a bit. Mind you, as a teen and a young adult you would I imagine by now be thoroughly used to boys and men checking you out as they go past :)

    1. I could not imagine what a reaction it would be if a child pulled off a wig or head covering I guess things like that stress me out and why I chose to go natural. Children staring I normally respond with a smile because I think they find it unnatural because girls should have hair in their mind. Boys and men normally don't know what to think some men are very sweet while others are obviously weirded out. I get extra complements like this evening at a wedding a man I never met commented on how nice I looked it was sweet, sincere and in a way a nod to say that he knew and understood. Women sometimes are the worst sometimes I get hit on which is very uncomfortable since I am straight and sometimes they almost corner me telling me about their cancer. Children I believe might be the easiest to talk to and explain cancer to and accept it the best because they don't judge or question.

  2. Hi,

    I have a quick question about your blog, would you mind emailing me when you get a chance?