How to Talk With Children about a Cancer Diagnosis

As you all know by now, I am a firm believer in and advocate for talking with children about a cancer diagnosis. A cancer diagnosis is always an f-bomb. There’s no other way to say it; however including children in the process – from the time of a diagnosis – is the most important thing that we adults can do for them.

Not only that but, children deserve open lines of truthful communication. Truthfulness is the best (and only!) way to establish and maintain a bond of trust, with everyone, but especially with children. Discussing illness honestly and openly will teach children that parents are trustworthy and that honesty is a core family value.

As much as I wish that my experience only happened to me and that I could have shielded my husband and children from the pain, the reality is that cancer happens within the ecosystem of family, friends and community. It just does.

The Silver Lining is that there are indeed tools to help parents talk with children. Last night, at the Santa Barbara Cancer Center, I co-facilitated a class for parents teaching them why, how and when to talk with their children. I thought that I’d share the information here with you, dear readers, in the even that you need them (though I sure hope that you never do!).

Here are some other blog posts that I’ve written about talking with children about cancer. Hope that they help!

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  1. Kim C says

    Thank you for this, Hollye! …….and the timing is perfect. I was so so surprised to see this post this morning after surfing your blog, just last night! for this very information!! I have a friend newly diagnosed with breast cancer and she has asked how I talked to my daughters. Well, I know I talked to my daughters, but it was a few years ago now. I didn't want to miss a thing and new exactly who to turn to for the answers!! I'll pass this post (this light) on to her.
    With gratitude,

    • says

      Thank YOU for your note Kim. I sure hope that this post (and the others like it) will help your friend. All my best wishes to her…and to you!