This is often the first question I’m asked by a parent with a new cancer diagnosis. One of the most important things for parents to remember is that they know their children better than anyone else and they love them more than anyone…they can trust themselves to do this well.
Beyond that general reassurance, however, there are some practical tips for talking with children about a cancer diagnosis.
Prepare for the conversation
Think about your goals for the conversation. What does your child need to know? How you can help your child understand what’s going on? How do you want your child to feel after the talk? Who should tell your child you have cancer and can the person talking to your child stay relatively calm?
When and where should I have this conversation? You don’t have to wait until you have all the answers. Be prepared to ...
“What happens if my insurance won’t pay for all of this treatment?”
“How do I tell my young daughter about my cancer?”
“My spouse is really struggling, but I don’t know how to help him.”
“How will I get to radiation every day if I can’t drive?”
“My friends and family call a lot, but I don’t feel like talking to them”
“I’m scared.” “I’m angry” “I’m sad” “I’m confused”
“What’s a power of attorney…and do I need one?”
“Where can I find out about a support group? ”
“I wish I knew where to turn.”
If you are faced with a diagnosis of cancer, you may be asking similar questions and wondering where to turn for answers. A good place to start is with an oncology social worker. Oncology social workers assist with the non-medical issues that often arise when someone is diagnosed with cancer. We have master’s degrees in social work, and are specially trained to provide counseling and assistance with services that can reduce stress for you and your family through all phases of your cancer diagnosis and treatment. Social work services are available at the Swedish Cancer Institute at our First Hill, Edmonds, and Issaquah campuses, and are provided at no cost to our patients.
We can help you: