Talking to kids about cancer

Kids often tune into things that adults are going through and can feel when something is wrong. When there is a cancer diagnosis in your family, children will be affected. Family dynamics change. They might be fearful, worried, angry or anxious.

Take some time to process your diagnosis and the information you have been given before sharing the news with your children.

Yarn with your doctor, nurse or Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander health worker, Elders, family or trusted friends about what things you can say and do to help your kids with the news.

Telling kids about the facts as well as your feelings will help bring things into the open. The tips below are from parents and caregivers of kids about what might help kids during the cancer journey.

Things that might help when there is cancer in the family Things that won’t help when there is cancer in the family
Yarning Keeping things secret
Giving simple answers to questions Giving lots of information and overloading kids
Letting kids yarn about difficult things Trying to hush it all up, avoiding sad or hard information and telling kids not to talk about it with you or anyone
Telling kids getting cancer or getting sick is not their fault Telling kids ‘be good for the grown ups’ and not to bother them
Listening to and talking with kids to hear how they are going and help them work out what they need Trying to tell kids how they should feel or what they need, and trying to fix things for them
Agreeing on what needs to happen including jobs for family, around the home, yard and community Giving orders, expecting too much of kids and not having play or family time together
Having a routine, rules and consequences Letting go of structure, rules and discipline 
Getting kids into sport and other community activities Expecting kids to be home all the time, not talk to other people about what’s going on
Accepting help from others including with the kids Thinking you can do everything on your own
Letting the school know Not letting important people in your kids’ lives know, or telling kids to keep everything private
Letting the kids see that you might struggle sometimes but that you’ve got support  Acting as if everything is okay when maybe it's not

Find out more about Talking to kids about cancer and Talking to younger children aged 3-5 about cancer.

Life with and after cancer


Where can I get help and support?