5 Tips for Helping Your Kids Cope With Cancer

By Sara Bondell - March 25, 2024

When Kate Middleton announced she had been diagnosed with cancer, she stressed the importance of finding the right time to tell her children.

Princess Kate is the mother of Prince George, 10, Princess Charlotte, 8, and Prince Louis, 5.

In a video message announcing her diagnosis, the Princess of Wales, 42, said it was a “huge shock” and she and William were processing and managing things privately “for the sake of our young family.”

“But, most importantly, it has taken us time to explain everything to George, Charlotte and Louis in a way that is appropriate for them, and to reassure them that I am going to be OK,” she said.

“As a parent, it’s normal to want to protect your children from any distress or worry,” said Jolene Rowe, a licensed clinical social worker at Moffitt Cancer Center. “You may find that it is harder than you realize to keep the news of your cancer diagnosis from them. Without accurate information, children will often draw their own conclusions about what they are hearing and seeing.”

Rowe shares these tips to best explain a cancer diagnosis to your children:

  1. Communicate early. This is key because it allows you to be in control of what is communicated and how it is communicated. An open and proactive approach to communication will create a safe space for discussion about what is happening to you and your family.
  1. Be honest. Don’t hesitate to share your distress and sadness about the diagnosis, but at the same time share your hopefulness and reassure them that you are seeking treatment for your cancer.
  1. Consider age. Children of different ages have different capacity to understand what is happening medically, so adjust your communication accordingly. Younger children may only need information about changes they see, such as physical changes or changes in routine. Older children may need more detail. Regardless of age, remember to keep it simple and use language that they can understand.
  1. Check in regularly. Don’t be afraid to ask kids what they know about cancer so you can dispel any myths, such as the fear that your cancer may be contagious. Encourage them to ask questions and express their fears and worries. Set up a weekly time to connect as a family to see how they are doing.
  1. Engage your support system. Don’t be afraid to encourage your support system to be available for them, as well, including close family members, friends or trusted teachers.

For more resources to help parents and children adjust to changes that come with a cancer diagnosis, check out Moffitt’s Families First Program.

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Sara Bondell Medical Science Writer More Articles

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