I Have Breast Cancer: How Do I Tell My Kids?

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October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. One in eight women are affected by breast cancer, many that are moms. Finding out you have breast cancer isn’t an easy pill to swallow, especially when kids are in the picture. One big question you may have: How do I tell my kids? Here are five tips to help you navigate the conversation.

1. Answering the ‘why’ questions.
Children are curious and may want to know why mommy got breast cancer. Clarify from the beginning that your child did or said nothing that caused the illness, and that cancer is not something you catch like a cold.

2. Use simple language.
Don’t use “doctor talk” when discussing treatment and physical issues with your children. Instead, explain to them by pointing to the area and keeping the words you use short and brief.

3. Listen.
The questions your children ask are a way to understand what they want to know and what they understand. Listening helps you avoid talking above their level of understanding and possibly causing confusion. Encourage your children to express their feelings, and that’s it’s OK to ask questions.

4. Don’t beat around the bush.
Avoiding questions about death does not protect children from potential anxiety and fears. If your child asks questions about death, be upfront with them and use the words “die” or “death.” One response to a question about death could be: “Some people do die from having cancer, but a lot of people also get better and live to be old.”

5. Don’t forget how strong your kids are.
Children, including the younger ones, go through a lot with each developmental milestone. The information you choose to share with them about breast cancer can actually be a learning environment for them.

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