Telling Kids About Cancer

CURE, Fall 2012, Volume 11, Issue 3

Telling Kids About Cancer

When a parent receives a cancer diagnosis, one of the first things that comes to mind is how to tell the kids. Depending upon their age, children may react with various emotions, such as fear, anger, uncertainty and guilt.

To help parents deal with the challenges of communicating a cancer diagnosis to their children, two health communication researchers developed an Internet tool that brings together advice from experts, step-by-step suggestions on how to have the conversation, and stories from other parents who survived cancer and their children who helped them.

“Telling kids about cancer is one of the most difficult conversations a parent can have,” says Linda Squiers, PhD, a health communication scientist at RTI International, a nonprofit scientific research institute, who collaborated with Matthew Kreuter, PhD, of Washington University in St. Louis. “We wanted to help newly diagnosed patients to slow down and develop a plan about how to share their diagnosis.”

Designed by CommunicateHealth, the tool also includes tips for age-appropriate conversations, a list of resources and helpful links, as well as audio recordings of parents and their children, gathered by the nonprofit StoryCorps.

“This is such an emotionally charged topic that we thought the best way to help people remember the content was through personal stories,” Squiers says. “By listening to the experiences of others, parents can learn to prepare for this difficult conversation, which will lay the foundation for communicating about cancer with their child going forward.”

For more details, visit