ASK THE EX­PERT

HOW DO I TELL MY CHIL­DREN THEIR DAD HAS CAN­CER?

South Wales Evening Post - - FAMILY HEALTH -

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

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