Living with cancer

Talking to children about cancer

When someone in a family is diagnosed with cancer, an early thought is often about what to tell the children. It can be difficult to think about what words to say and how to pitch the discussion about cancer to the right age group and level of understanding.

Sometimes, the subject is not discussed, and children can pick up on the stress and underlying tension, without knowing what is causing it. Depending on their ages, they may react with a change in behaviour, become more clingy or withdrawn, or start asking questions.

Children may have heard of cancer, and be scared of it, so reassurance and honesty will ease the way to helping them accept what is going on, and adjust to new routines. For some children and teenagers, the discussions may need to become more detailed, if or when someone becomes more unwell, and may not recover.

The links below will hep you to find out more about talking to children about cancer and available support.You will find further information in our paediatric (children's) cancers section which includes information for teachers and group leaders supporting children and young adults with cancer.

If you have been affected by cancer in some way and would like to talk to someone about what you have read or need help finding information - you are welcome to drop into any Maggie’s Centre or to visit Maggie’s Online Centre and talk with a cancer support specialist.