LIV LETTER - What Do I Tell My Children

One of the common challenges that our moms face is deciding what tell to tell their children about their illness. There is a delicate balance from telling them too much to not relaying enough. Deciding what to relay also depends on the age of the child, for children conceptualize illness and death in different ways. Carolina, our dedicated volunteer who has a background in working with patients with advances illness, spoke to our advocates last weekend about these concepts that children have. It was helpful to further understand what our moms are going through in relation to telling their children about their disease.

Our moms with younger children don’t have to explain as much, for their children do not yet fully understand the situation. The challenge typically is handling the separation anxiety that the children experience when mom has to be away like for a hospitalization due to an infected IV site or pneumonia. One mom resorts to video calls with her daughter while being hospitalized.  Another stated, “My daughter was a baby when I was diagnosed and so she doesn’t know anything different.” A handful of our moms have very little explaining to do and so books help to conceptualize illness in general. Walk With Sally, an organization that mentors children affected by cancer, helps our moms by providing them with childrens books that talk about cancer. We have found this type of support very helpful as an adjunct to discussing their illness with their children. Regardless of the age, our moms do worry about what to tell their children.

Our moms with older children have a bigger challenge in that they have to explain why they don’t feel well enough to take him or her to practice, why they are losing their hair, or why they are getting chemotherapy. Depending on how late the stage of cancer, they may even have to relay their prognosis. How difficult is that? Can you imagine having to tell your 9-year-old that you have 3 months to live? As shocking as this sounds, a few of our moms have had to do this and it just breaks my heart. One of our moms shows her love to her children in a very dear and special way by posting heart messages on their door. It is such a simple gesture, but one that her children will always cherish and remember. So, for those times when she may not always know what to tell her children, she can always focus on telling them that she loves them and why.


Tell us what you share with your children...



Its hard at any age to hear your parent has cancer. It hits teens harder than little ones since they have been exposed to social media. Kids now a days have heard to many grave stories about having cancer. They right away associate it with death. As a parent I felt telling them a limited amount of info at different times was better than hitting them with the news all at once. I was open about Dr's appointments and what I was going in for. But all this I did with a positive attitude, I knew they were going to feed off my vibe and if I fell apart they would be lost. Its a hard thing to do and maybe not everyone is strong in dealing with it, but my kids have always come first along with their emotional well being. Don't get me wrong there was days in the beginning when I would shower and cry like a baby. I felt in the beginning I didn't have time to plan out what to say or how to feel, I just thought to protect them this is how I tell them, a little at a time to make them understand. I can go on and on but the just end of it is be as faithful and strong as you can be, but the most important thing is being positive around your kids. They will follow that and your strength as well.
Thank you Cynthia for sharing your experience with us. ;-)
Telling your children that you are sick is a really tough subject. How much information do you give them without giving them too much? I liked some of the books that you guys provided to us moms in this situation...they gave my kids the information they needed without going overboard. But as you have stated it...the method that is chosen will probably depend on the age of the child.
Yes agree Tina. It depends on the age of your child. I am so glad you found the books helpful!


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