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Living with Breast Cancer: Your Children

If you have children, they will likely need help and support to deal with having a parent with breast cancer. The needs of your children will depend on their age and their level of understanding of your breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. During your treatment, part of the challenge of parenting is to balance your needs with your children’s. This can feel especially true if you have younger children living at home with you.

Coping With Breast Cancer As A Family

It is not easy to talk about serious illness with children of any age. Some of the things you and your family members can do to help children cope include the following: 

  • Talk openly. Provide information and answers that are simple, honest and based on your children’s levels of maturity and ability to understand

  • Encourage children to continue with their usual activities, such as playing, spending time with friends, school, activities and social outings

  • Be positive. Acknowledge your children’s strengths and encourage them to tell you about their lives and activities. Let them be a source of fun and enjoyment for you

  • Let them know that although you may need to put a lot of your energy into your breast cancer treatment, this does not mean you love them any less

  • Reassure them that while you are having treatment, there is someone to take care of them

  • Be open about the illness, because fear of the unknown can make it harder for children to cope

Talking about breast cancer with your children can be difficult. Remember that you know your children, understand their needs, and are the best person to explain your diagnosis and treatment to them – you will be able to find the right words to talk to them.

There are a number of online resources to help support you and your children as you talk about your diagnosis and treatment:

Talking to your kids about breast cancer: A guide for parents. Rethink Breast Cancer.

Reaching out to Your Children When Cancer Comes to Your Family: A Guide for Parents. BC Cancer Agency.

Cancer in my family. BC Cancer Agency (an online resource to help children explore their feelings worries and questions when someone in their family has cancer).

Some regions also have support groups for children dealing with cancer in the family. Ask your health care team for information about support services for families.