Explaining cancer to kids is a challenging and important conversation. While unfamiliar and upsetting emotions are a normal response to learning someone you love has cancer, these emotions can be deeply inhibiting and set children on edge throughout the day. Finding mechanisms to cope is key in helping children overcome their fear and not be controlled by it.
Change is difficult for anyone, especially children. Children prefer to be kind and well-behaved but these unfurling emotions can control their actions. Whether it’s a new baby, a new school, a new babysitter, or a family member with cancer, children will likely not have the words to express their concern.
Ideally, the best time to have a conversation about cancer with your child is when you are both feeling calm. Pick a moment when neither of you are tired, hungry or feeling rushed. A good time to initiate the dialogue is before you read a bedtime story or when you are taking a relaxed drive together.
Address their worries head on. Be honest, clear, and include your optimism for a full recovery. Talk about what your days ahead might look like. Read a book together like ‘M.C. Plays Hide & Seek‘ and after every few pages, ask if they have any questions. If the answer stumps you, get back to them when you determined how to address their concern.
M.C. Plays Hide & Seek won the Mom’s Choice Gold Award and recommended globally as one of the best books for children about cancer.
Let your child know what they can do to help.
- Pick up toys so I don’t hurt myself stepping on them.
- Listen the first time I ask you to do something.
- Wash your hands when you come in the house, after you use the bathroom and before you eat since my ability to fight germs is weakened.
Request simple tasks and don’t forget to reward good behavior!
Listen to professional storyteller Eva Grayzel read M.C. Plays Hide & Seek to your child in the Read2Me series. (9-minutes)