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Helping Children Cope with Breast Cancer

Talking to Your Children about Breast Cancer


For many young mothers, one of the first reactions to being diagnosed with breast cancer is “What about my kids?” There isn’t one right way to help children cope, but here are some helpful guidelines you can follow:

  • Communication is key. Children of all ages tend to be good at picking up parents’ distress, even when parents think they are hiding it well. Let them know they are not to blame for your worries so they don’t make up their own explanations for what’s wrong.
  • Use the word cancer. A problem with using words like “sick” or “boo-boo” is that children hear these words applied to themselves when they have colds or scrapes. They can feel confused when you don’t recover as quickly as they do and may worry that getting sick will be just as hard for them the next time.
  • Let children know they did not cause nor can they catch cancer. This alleviates children making up reasons.
  • Tell them what to expect during treatment and how it will affect their day-to-day lives. Tell them, for example, who will care for them while you are at treatment.
  • Tell children about your prognosis. Use language to match with your child’s age/developmental understanding. Have other family members, clergy or a therapist present for these conversations to relieve some of the burden and provide support. Consider making teachers and/or a school counselor/social worker aware of your diagnosis.
  • Keep lines of communication open, and check in often.

Read more in our guide Helping Children Cope with Breast Cancer.

Resources for Children

There are many resources available to help your children understand and cope with your disease.

CLIMB provides cancer-focused psychosocial intervention to improve the emotional health of children with a parent who has cancer.

Camp Kesem offers a free week of camp for kids who have a parent with cancer.

Jack & Jill Late Stage Cancer Foundation helps children and their parents spend quality time together in a time of hardship and uncertainty.

Mighty + Bright helps kids cope with traumatic experiences, including talking to kids about a parent's cancer.

Talking with Teens is a valuable resource for parents, guardians, and other family members.

Connect with Others

Find women who know what it’s like to face breast cancer at a young age. The YSC community makes it easy to find and connect with other young survivors and co-survivors.

Resource Links