Starting the Conversation

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with cancer, one of your first thoughts may be: How do I tell the children?

Adults often fear telling children that cancer has come into the family. We all want to keep the children we love happy and it’s hard to think of talking to them about something that will make them—and us—upset.

The thing is, children are very sensitive to what is happening around them. They can sense when something is wrong and the adults they love aren’t talking to them about it. Children also have very active imaginations. Not telling a child what the family is facing leaves them to imagine situations that are often worse than things really are. Young children may also believe that something they have done has caused the problem. Not being able to talk about their concerns can leave them feeling isolated, alone, sad or worried. Although telling your children about a cancer diagnosis is hard, it is important and necessary.

Here are some helpful tips for talking to kids and teens about cancer:

  • Be honest in answering their questions
  • Use simple language that your child can understand
  • Don’t be afraid to use the word cancer
  • Let children know it is ok to feel sad, mad, scared or confused
  • Let them know about expected changes in their routines
  • Let them know about any expected change in your appearance or behavior (hair loss, fatigue)
  • Don’t force information. Answer questions as they come up
  • It is OK to share your feelings with your children
  • It is OK to let your children see you cry
  • Give your children small age appropriate jobs so that they feel involved.


Resources & Support for Kids & Teens


Cancer can affect a family in many ways. There are changes in day-to-day routines and more responsibilities to be managed. Feelings of anger, sadness, helplessness, regret and fear may touch different family members at different times, making life unpredictable for everyone. Every family member’s experience is unique and different, often making it hard to know how to provide support to one another.


Cancer Support Community Delaware is a statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to providing support groups and programs to cancer patients, caregivers and family members, including children, teens and young adults. All programs are led by licensed health professionals, at no cost to the participant. Programs offered range from Yoga, Chair Yoga, T’ai Chi, Zumba and Meditation to Journaling, Poetry, Art Therapy, and specialty programs such as Bereavement and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction. Services are offered statewide in Delaware, with the New Castle County office located in a serene homelike setting on four beautiful acres of gardens.


4810 Lancaster Pike

Wilmington, DE 19807

(302) 995-2850


Supporting Kidds provides a compassionate pathway to healing for grieving children and their families, and to empower the community to support them in the grieving process.

1123 Old Lancaster Pike

Hockessin, DE 19707

(302) 235-5544


For more information about Cancer Support Community Delaware, visit


Nicole Topkis Pickles is Executive Director of Cancer Support Community Delaware (CSCDE), a statewide nonprofit organization that provides psycho-social support services, including support groups, mind/body programs and educational workshops all at no cost, to people with cancer and their loved ones in all three counties throughout the state of Delaware. Nicole is a cancer survivor and was a member of the Board of Directors of CSCDE before taking the reigns as Executive Director in May 2014.