Good communication with your children helps everyone in the family cope with whatever changes lie ahead.

Among the many difficult questions parents face when a family member is diagnosed with cancer is “What do I tell my children?” Fearful that they might upset or worry their youngsters and teens, some parents withhold the news. But even at a very young age, children can sense when something is wrong. If not told the truth, they might imagine that things are worse than they really are or even that they themselves are the cause of the problem.

Talking to a child about a parent’s, grandparent’s, sibling’s or other loved one’s cancer and how it will affect the family isn’t easy, but it is necessary. This booklet can help. It includes tips for talking with children about a family member’s cancer and treatment. It also suggests ways to help children cope with some of the feelings they may experience during this time. As their parent, you are the best judge of how to talk to your children. The first conversation about cancer is often the hardest, but by speaking honestly and helping them express their emotions, you make it easier for them to feel safe and secure.

For more than 75 years, CancerCare®, a national nonprofit organization, has helped people with cancer and their loved ones. Our free services for children affected by cancer help parents and children cope with a cancer diagnosis in the family. We have professional oncology social workers on staff who are specifically trained to understand the complex needs of children and families. They provide case management, counseling and workshops and design activities that bring families together in a relaxed setting, which is reassuring to children.

Support groups led by our social workers are a good place to exchange information and share experiences with other people in similar situations, which can make it easier to cope.

Our social workers also help you find the practical help you might need, such as financial assistance or tips on managing side effects. All of CancerCare’s services, offered by telephone, online and face to face, are completely free of charge.