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Supporting the Cancer Conversation

Talking with children about cancer is incredibly hard for most parents – they aren’t sure what to say, what words to use or how much detail to share. Your knowledge and support can really help. Here are a few strategies you can share with the parents to help make the experience a little easier.

• Plan what you will say. Before having the cancer conversation, think about what your child needs or wants to know, how you want them to feel, what words you can use to help them understand. You can even try practicing on your own. If you need the support of a family member or friend, ask them to be there.

• Break the information into small pieces. Only give children as much information as they want or can handle (what the name of your cancer is, what body part it affects, what happens next). Too much information may overwhelm them. If your children are different ages, it’s okay to address their needs separately.

• Ask for help. You’re not alone – there are many community resources that can support you in this conversation. If you feel like you can’t relay this information yourself, reach out to someone who can.

• Use simple concrete language children know. Say “doctor” instead of “oncologist,” “medicine” rather than “chemo.” Keep checking back to ensure the children understand what you’re saying.