ASK THE EXPERT
HOW DO I TELL MY CHILDREN THEIR DAD HAS CANCER?
MANY parents avoid telling their kids they’ve been diagnosed with the big C, but a cancer care expert advises honesty is the best policy.
QMY husband has been diagnosed with cancer and I don’t know how to tell our children – should I put on a brave face or let them know what’s going on?
AJULIA ROSS, right, head of cancer care at Bupa UK, says: “One in two people are expected to be diagnosed with cancer, so it’s something many families will face, unfortunately. It can be a stressful, busy time with lots of decisions to make – deciding what and how to tell your children can be difficult.
“In fact, our research has shown millions of parents delay telling their child about a loved one’s diagnosis, while others decide to keep it secret. Understandably, many parents don’t want to worry their children, and are concerned about the impact on their mental health or school life.
“I’d say being open is often the best approach. However, each child will respond differently. You’ll know them best and should take your cues from them.
“Children are very intuitive, so it’s likely they’ll sense something’s wrong. For some children, being kept in the dark may lead to additional stress and anxiety, imagining things are worse than they are or that something’s wrong with them.
“If you tell your children, encourage them to ask questions – misinformation from friends or the internet may cause worry.
“Don’t feel you have to put on a brave face – show your children it’s OK to feel sad.
“When someone close is unwell, children may struggle at school and become withdrawn. I’d advise letting your child’s school know so teachers can support them if they’re struggling or acting differently.
“Finally, one of the most important things you can do during this time is to spend quality time together as a family. Children need to know that. despite their parent’s illness, they have a strong support network of people who love them and are there for any questions they have.”
Children often know something is wrong