A cancer diagnosis can be difficult to talk about. Talking about cancer to children can be particularly challenging.
Here are seven handy tips for talking to kids about cancer. This list includes tools and resources that provide expert support, or allow children to explore and learn in their own time. They all act as a starting point to facilitate conversations about cancer.
You might like to share this information with people you know; for example, teachers, school counsellors, or family friends.
1. Ask them if they have any questions
It’s important to give children the opportunity to talk about their feelings and ask questions. This applies in school, at home, and in hospital. When talking to children about cancer, allow them to lead the conversation. They might ask some difficult questions, but it’s important that kids are listened to when they’re learning about cancer.
2. Never force a child to discuss things they don’t feel comfortable talking about
It can be tempting to try and provide answers or advice to kids who are facing their own diagnosis or that of a family member. Naturally, some kids might find it uncomfortable talking about cancer. If they don’t want to talk about something, it’s important to respect that. Just let them know that you’re there if they ever do want to talk.
3. Request a Camp Quality puppet show at your school
Camp Quality’s Cancer Education Program helps schools create a supportive community for any child affected by cancer. Featuring the Camp Quality Puppets, these free shows provide an interactive and engaging way to dispel myths and provide cancer education in an age-appropriate way. The puppet shows, and accompanying resources for teachers, can help school-age kids understand cancer, and facilitate conversations.
Find out more about requesting a puppet show.
4. Refer to resources from the Cancer Council
The Cancer Council has developed resources on talking to kids about cancer. This includes information on why you should talk to kids about cancer, and the risks associated with secrecy. These resources provide another great starting point in having these conversations.
5. Access Canteen’s counselling and peer-support programs
Canteen helps young people aged 12-25 who are facing their own, or a family member’s, cancer diagnosis. They provide counselling services, individual support, and peer-support programs. Canteen also provides ways for kids to connect with other young people online. Enabling kids to connect with other people their age can help start conversations about cancer.
6. Acknowledge their feelings
It’s common for children facing cancer to be sad or angry. That’s OK. Don’t try to change their feelings; instead, show that you understand how they’re feeling, and support them. Sometimes children might not want to talk and would prefer their own space for a while. That’s OK too.
7. Download the Kids’ Guide to Cancer app
The Kids’ Guide to Cancer app is a free, interactive and educational platform that answers common questions children have about cancer. Kids and adults can use this app to learn about cancer together. It has recently been updated to include fun new illustrations and animations. The award-winning app helps children learn about cancer at their own pace. You can use the Kids’ Guide to Cancer with your child, as a way of helping facilitate difficult conversations.
You can download the Kids’ Guide to Cancer app on iOS and Android