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Misconceptions About What Children Understand About Cancer

Reality: People often think children are too little to understand cancer – or that they’re too young to be told how sick their parent really is. Children understand more than we think, and can handle difficult information, as long as it’s presented to them in an age-appropriate way.

Research shows that when children as young as two aren’t included in discussions about serious illness, they still react. Being honest with them creates trust. Not knowing what’s going on can make them feel isolated, anxious and out of control. If they aren’t given enough information or what you tell them isn’t accurate, they are likely to come up with their own answers, which can be worse than the reality they’re being shielded from. This is called “magical thinking.”

As a Nanny Angel, you can help the family talk about cancer with their children, address their worries, and help them cope. To do that, it’s helpful to start by understanding some of the misconceptions around the way children experience illness, death and grief.