Ways to Tell Your Kids About Breast Cancer

Practical and easy steps to help you explain a breast cancer diagnosis to your children.

01 of 06

How to Say "Mom Has Breast Cancer"

woman holding breast cancer awareness ribbon

Telling kids about cancer is one of the most difficult parts of any cancer diagnosis. If you're a mom, a breast cancer diagnosis can be especially scary, but it can also change you and your family in positive ways.

"My cancer scare changed my life," says actress Olivia Newton-John. "I'm grateful for every new, healthy day I have. It has helped me prioritize my life."

Feelings of gratitude, optimism, and faith are so important for moms (or any woman) coping with breast cancer. If you are a parent, a major responsibility is to help your kids understand the diagnosis and process. Here are six ways to tell your kids about breast cancer and have important, deep discussions about the symptoms, treatments, and side effects.

Originally written by Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen, creator of Quips and Tips for Achieving Your Goals.

02 of 06

Be Clear About Your Cancer Diagnosis

mother talking to child
Tina Rupp

Be direct with your kids and say, "Mommy has been diagnosed with breast cancer." Then, explain what breast cancer is and stress that not all cancers are alike. Also make sure to stress that you will be getting good care and treatment and that new and better cancer treatments are being discovered every day.

03 of 06

Accept Anxiety and Tension as Normal Behaviors

girl looking out window
Fancy Photography/Veer

Let your kids express their fears, confusion, and anger. "Sometimes the treatments and the diagnosis are stressful and scary, so there may be more tension in the house than usual and there may even be crying. This is normal for such a time," says Patricia Kelly in Everyone's Guide to Cancer Therapy: How Cancer Is Diagnosed, Treated, and Managed Day to Day.

04 of 06

Remember That You're a Role Model

mother and daughter

Try to keep a positive personality and outlook, but explain to your kids that mommy might have difficult days with the pain and medication. How you deal with your diagnosis and treatment will affect how your kids will deal with it. If you need professional support for dealing with your cancer, see a counselor or attend a cancer therapy support group.

05 of 06

Explain That Cancer Treatments Are Temporary

breast cancer survivors with child

Tell them that the side effects of chemotherapy are temporary. Hair will grow back, weight will be regained, and energy levels will return! Make sure your kids understand that cancer and chemotherapy treatments are not permanent conditions.

06 of 06

Emphasize Cancer Isn't Contagious or Punishment

mother checking child's throat
OJO Images/Veer

Reassure your kids that cancer isn't easily passed on like the common cold, so they won't get sick by being near mom. Also make sure to explain that mommy isn't being punished -- that cancer isn't given to "bad people" and can affect any woman as she ages.

Originally written by Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen, creator of Quips and Tips for Achieving Your Goals.

All content on this Web site, including medical opinion and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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