Talking Points and Other Resources

When discussing your breast cancer diagnosis with your children, it may be helpful to keep the following "talking points" in mind:
Be sure your children have adequate opportunities to discuss your cancer and express their feelings

You may or may not be the person they feel most comfortable talking to. They may prefer expressing their thoughts and feelings to a close friend, your spouse, a teacher, or a relative. Don't isolate them by not letting them talk to the person they feel most comfortable with, even if it is a peer. If you don't feel comfortable with too many people knowing about your cancer, help them select which friend(s) they may want to tell.
Be honest with them and provide them with the amount of information that they seek

Keep it at their level of education and understanding. Be sure someone answers their questions, even if you have to write them down and ask your doctor.

Don't be afraid to show your emotions in their presence

This will demonstrate to them that it is okay for everyone to have and show emotions.
Provide more family time

Do things together. Talk about activities and ideas. Discuss your cancer and your feelings as a family.
Avoid being punitive or withdrawing from them

If they respond with anger, try not to be punitive or withdraw from them.
Make sure they understand cancer

Be sure that children of all ages understand that they did not cause your cancer, that cancer is not contagious, cancer can be cured, and it is normal for them to be frightened, angry, and sad.
Try to change their daily routine as little as possible

Encourage them to play with their friends, participate in their usual activities. If possible don't put extra work demands on them at home. But, if they volunteer to do things to help you or make you more comfortable, accept them gratefully.
Have your spouse or another significant person spend more time with them.
Once your daughter is past puberty or in high school, be sure she learns self breast examination.