Cervical Cancer

Talking to children


It can be difficult for parents to know when and what to tell young children and teenagers about cancer. Knowing how much information to give children, wanting to protect them from distress and worrying about how they will react can be challenging.


Many mothers of young children decided not to tell their children that they had cancer. Instead they told them they had to go to hospital to have some treatment, or an operation to make them better because they were not well, or that something was wrong with their tummy. One woman explains how she got advice about what to tell her children who were aged 4 and 5 and that they accepted what she told them.

Some mothers of older children told their children that they had cancer but reassured them that everything was going to be fine. One woman told her children, aged 9 and 11, immediately because she wanted them to understand what was happening and why the family were suddenly getting visitors. She describes how her children reacted in different ways.

Mothers of teenage children often worried about the impact that their illness had on them. One woman whose daughter was taking her GCSE's was worried about the effect it would have on her but explains that she passed with top grades. Another, who was a single parent, was worried about how her teenage daughter would cope and explains that her daughter became protective of her.

Sometimes women found that their children did not want to talk to them about their illness. One explains how she gave her teenage son a book about cancer but he didn't want to discuss his feelings with her. Another said her teenage daughter didn't want to know too much about her illness and they agreed not to speak about it (see Interview 06 above). A third mentioned that one of her sons, a teenager at the time, found it difficult to talk to her about her illness.

Last reviewed April 2014.

Last updated March 2010.

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