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.
Other Resources for parents with cancer who have children: