Cancer can be a misunderstood topic for a child, however, it is important to be honest and always speak the truth in a way that the child understands the disease.
The first step in talking about cancer with them is to find the right time and space where you feel comfortable and where we know there will be no interruptions. If you have more than one child at home, you should plan how to talk to them separately. This to be able to provide them with more personalized information and according to each of their ages.
It is important to consider the following points regarding the information that will be provided to the child about its family member’s cancer:
- The name and/or type of cancer.
- Where is the cancer found.
- What does the treatment consist of.
- The changes in their lives due to the disease.
The amount of information provided to the child will depend a lot on its age, the older it is, the more detailed the information (after eight years old).
An easy way to explain it is to tell them that our body is made up of cells and that sometimes bad cells appear and make the person feel bad, but the doctors will do their best to help cure the disease.
- Children tend to feel guilty when something bad happens. It is very important to make it clear to them that their family member does not have cancer because of them or because they have behaved badly.
- They should be told that cancer is a disease that is not spread by a kiss or a hug. You can even tell them that hugs and displays of affection are good for the sick person.
- It is necessary to inform them of some of the effects that the treatment will produce on the sick family member, whether it is chemotherapy or radiotherapy: hair loss, lack of energy, general discomfort. This for the child to understand that the adult with whom it used to go out to play before, probably does not feel like doing so.
It is important to keep constant communication with children throughout the disease process, clarify their doubts, and make them feel confident to ask questions at any time.