- Helping ChildrenWhen a Family Member Has Cancer:Dealing With a Parent’s Terminal Illness
- Why should I tell my children I’m dying?
- When should children be told that a parent might die?
- How do I explain to a young child that their parent is dying?
- Are there differences in issues depending on whether the sick parent is a mother, father, or other caregiver?
- What if I am the only parent and have a terminal illness?
- How do children differ by age in dealing with illness and death?
- Infants or very young children
- Children age 3 to 5
- Children age 6 to 8
- Children age 9 to 12
- When death is near, should children be involved in the actual event?
- How can children be prepared for the memorial ritual or funeral?
- What other factors influence how a child understands a parent’s death?
- How are children affected by the surviving parent’s grief?
- Spiritual and religious beliefs may help comfort children
- How should your child’s school be included?
- To learn more
To learn more
More information from your American Cancer Society
We have some related information that may also be helpful to you. These materials may be viewed on our Web site or ordered from our toll-free number, 1-800-227-2345.
More on helping children with cancer in the family
Helping Children When a Family Member Has Cancer: Dealing With Diagnosis (also in Spanish)
Helping Children When a Family Member Has Cancer: Dealing With Treatment (also in Spanish)
It Helps to Have Friends When Mom or Dad Has Cancer (booklet for elementary school children)
Managing advanced cancer
Advanced Cancer (also in Spanish)
Bone Metastasis (also in Spanish)
Caring for the Patient With Cancer at Home (also in Spanish)
Pain Control (also in Spanish)
Advanced cancer and end of life
Books from your American Cancer Society
The following books are available from the American Cancer Society. Call us to ask about costs or to place your order. The books for children are intended to be read to and discussed with the younger children in the age range.
Cancer in the Family: Helping Children Cope with a Parent’s Illness (for adults)
When the Focus Is on Care: Palliative Care and Cancer (for adults)
Because...Someone I Love Has Cancer: Kids’ Activity Book. (best for children ages 5 to 10)
Our Mom Has Cancer (best for children ages 5 to 10)
Let My Colors Out (best for ages 4 to 8)
National organizations and Web sites*
Along with the American Cancer Society, other sources of information and support include:
National Family Caregivers Association
Toll-free number: 1-800-896-3650
Web site: www.thefamilycaregiver.org
Information and support for family caregivers
Toll-free number: 1-800-899-2866 (If you get voicemail, leave a message to get a call back)
Web site: www.kidskonnected.org
For children and teens who have a parent with cancer as well as for those who have lost a parent to cancer
National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization Caring Connections
Toll-free number: 1-800-658-8898
In other languages: 1-877-658-8896
Web site: www.caringinfo.org
Information on making plans for end of life (advance directives), hospice care, and finding hospice nearby. Also has information on caring for a very ill loved one, managing pain, grieving, and more
Hospice Foundation of America
Toll-free number: 1-800-854-3402
Web site: www.hospicefoundation.org
End-of-life resources and information for patients and families, hospice locator, bereavement support groups available in some regions
Web site: www.hospicenet.org
Information about hospice care and related topics for caregivers, family, and people with terminal illnesses. Has help on finding hospice care nearby. Includes articles on preparing for and talking with children about death, and dealing with surviving children.
Toll-free number: 1-866-218-0101
Web site: www.centering.org
Information and resources on bereavement and loss, for children and adults
Online groups for adult grief support; separate online support groups for children under 12 and for teens (with consent from parent or guardian)
The Dougy Center
Toll-free number: 1-866-775-5683
Web site: www.dougy.org
Information for grieving children, teens, and adults. Referrals to programs across the country and internationally that serve grieving children, teens, and their families
National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA)
Toll-free number: 1-800-228-6332
Web site: www.nfda.org/public.html
Offers information on grief and mourning, working with kids and teens, funeral planning, “green” burials, and more
You may also want to contact your local hospice or hospital for bereavement support groups in your area.
*Inclusion on this list does not imply endorsement by the American Cancer Society.
No matter who you are, we can help. Contact us anytime, day or night, for information and support. Call us at 1-800-227-2345 or visit www.cancer.org.
Last Medical Review: 07/20/2012
Last Revised: 07/20/2012