Cancer is a difficult topic to talk about. It is not easy to decide what or when to tell children about a cancer diagnosis.
There are many organisations and resources to support you and your children. These can:
- provide emotional support for you and your children
- help you to explain cancer and treatment to your children and help your children understand
- provide toys, flash cards and kits to help you talk to your children
Support for you
General cancer organisations
If you would like to talk to someone, you can phone the Cancer Research UK nurses.
There are many cancer support groups for people with cancer. They are a way of people coming together to share their experiences. You can offer and receive support from other group members. It may help you to find out from other parents how they have coped and talked to their children.
Ask your doctor or nurse about support groups in your area. Or find out about the different organisations and what they can offer.
You can share your experiences online by visiting CancerChat, our online forum.
This UK based organisation provides support for children who have lost a parent.
Helpline : 08088 020 021
There are booklets with some useful information about talking to children. Examples include:
- Talking to children when an adult has cancer
- Talking to children about cancer
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) in America has a booklet for teenagers called 'When your parent has cancer - a guide for teens'. This gives tips and ideas on how to talk about cancer and how it may affect the family.
An Australian charity called Canteen has a section for young people who have a parent with cancer. They have a guide for parents of teenagers.
Books for younger children
Stories in picture book format can be a useful way to talk about feelings with younger children.
The Huge Bag of Worries
by V Ironside and F Rodgers
Hodder Children's Books, 2011
This picture book follows the daily life of a young girl who worries about everything. It aims to help children cope with their worries and anxieties.
by Gillian Forrest & Sarah Garson
Breast Cancer Now
This is a simple story about a mum diagnosed with breast cancer.
Arthur: When someone you know has cancer
An Activity booklet for families
A story about the new cook at school who has cancer. Lots of discussion points and helpful resources in starting those discussions.
Lucy and the Good Soldier
A picture book about a Dad who has leukaemia and is waiting for a stem cell transplant.
Kelsey and the Yellow Kite
by Myeloma UK
A story about a Dad having treatment for myeloma, having a bone marrow transplant and feeling afraid.
Books for older children
Books written for younger children might also help older children as they are more easy to understand.
The secret C
by J A Stokes
Winston's Wish 2nd edition, 2009
This picture book aims to help parents explain what cancer means. It also describes the different treatments and how these might affect the family. It is aimed at children aged between 7 and 10 years.
A monster calls
by P Ness
Walker Books, 2015
This book is for older children. It is about a 13 year old boy whose mum is dying of cancer and deals with the very difficult emotion of guilt. This book is often read in school during year 7, and sometimes year 6.
Remember to take care when children are using the web. You are responsible for checking that the material your own child accesses is suitable for them. We have looked at these sites before putting this information up. But we have not checked all the material on these sites and things can change over time.
Hope Support Services
Hope is a UK charity. It supports children and young people when a close family member has a serious illness, such as cancer.
Hope provides a free, safe online service for those aged 5-25. Hope Online includes a peer support community. Young people can share experiences and ways to cope.
Tel: 01989 566317
This is an Australian charity for young people affected by cancer. It has a section for young people who have a parent with cancer. It contains lots of information and tips about coping.
Riprap is a UK website designed to offer support to teenagers of all ages who have a parent affected by cancer. They have an email information service, an online forum and information about local support.
This organisation provides resources for children who have a parent with cancer. The resources aim to help children understand about cancer and treatment. They include kits, books and other practical tools.
Little c club
The Little c club was set up by 2 young mums with secondary cancer. They produce flash cards. These offer activities to help support parents explain their cancer diagnosis.
The Osborne trust
This organisation provides practical and emotional support. It is for children and young people when their parent has cancer treatment.
Shine cancer support
Shine is a UK charity that support adults in their 20s, 30s and 40s who have cancer. Many of these people are parents The website provides some information about parenting when you have cancer.