Talking about cancer
Children and cancer
Talking to a child about cancer
In agreement with you, the doctor informs your child or adolescent about his or her illness, the necessary tests, the stages of treatment, the hospitalizations to be expected and the possible side effects. This information is adapted to your child’s age and maturity and to what he or she may hear at any given time.
Your child needs you and it is important that you talk to them, whatever their age. Talk to them gently and honestly. Help them to express what they are feeling.
Let their anger out if it arises. Relay questions to the doctor or nurse if he or she wishes. Do not infantilize them, talk and listen to them as you did before the illness. Parent-child relationships can be “shaken up” by the disease, but maintaining your educational references will be reassuring for your child.
You can ask the psychologists or child psychiatrists on the ward to think about the best way to deal with this information with your child.
Depending on their age, and particularly if they are an adolescent or young adult, they may wish to speak alone with their doctor or with a person of their choice from the care team. They may also want to read material about cancer and hospitalization.
Every effort is made to ensure that treatment decisions are made and implemented in a climate of mutual trust between your child, you and the health care team.
If your child reaches the age of majority during treatment, he or she can choose a trusted person. Indeed, any adult can designate, if he or she wishes, a trusted person to accompany him or her during medical interviews, to help him or her in his or her decisions and to be consulted if he or she is unable to receive information on his or her state of health and to express his or her wishes. The trusted support person may or may not belong to the family. This choice can be changed at any time.
- “Being young and concerned by cancer: your questions, our answers” (2008), Association Jeunes Solidarité Cancer – Distribution: Jeunes Solidarité Cancer
- “Cancer is also the story of a beating heart, a book of testimonies” (2008), Association Jeunes Solidarité Cancer – Distribution: Jeunes Solidarité Cancer
When to talk to them?
The earlier the better.
Ideally, you should inform your children before treatment begins so that they are not surprised by the side effects or worried about your absence if you are hospitalised.
Of course, take the time to ‘come to terms’ with this news yourself and discuss it with your partner/relatives before you tell them.
Remember, it is never too late to explain to your children what is going on. Just tell them why you couldn’t do it before: “you were afraid”, “it was too difficult…”.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.
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