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Many parents with cancer don't want to hide their illness from the children in their lives. Children often sense that something's wrong and may be more worried not knowing what's bothering you. They may also blame themselves for doing something wrong. What's more, not being honest denies them of the chance to talk to you about how they feel.

If you're having trouble deciding how or if to tell your children, your healthcare team may be able to give you advice. You can also contact The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) chapter in your area or an LLS information specialist (800-955-4572).

Consider the following tips to help you talk with your children about your cancer:

  • Use words and ideas right for your children's ages. Provide them with information at a level that matches their ability to understand.
  • Use your children's questions as a guide to what they want to know. Don't be overly concerned about giving too much information. Children, like grownups, stop listening when they've heard enough.
  • Encourage your children to talk about their fears and concerns. You may need to give your child the same information more than once.
  • Ask someone else to do the talking. There may be times when you feel it would be best for your children to talk with someone other than you. Each family has different needs. Your healthcare team can help you decide whether another adult should talk with your children.
  • Ask your children for help. Younger children can make you get-well cards or bring you a book. Older children can read to you or do extra chores. Children of any age can keep you company or go for a walk with you.
  • Remind your children of how much you love them. Explain that even if you're feeling cranky or tired, you still love them and always will. Tell them how proud you are of them. And remember to assure them that it's not their fault you have cancer.
last updated on Tuesday, March 15, 2011
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