- Helping ChildrenWhen a Family Member Has Cancer:Dealing With a Parent’s Terminal Illness
- How do I know I’m dying?
- Why should I tell my children I’m dying?
- How do I talk to my children about dying?
- Will this experience affect my child’s happiness and ability to enjoy life in the future?
- What if I’m a single parent and have a terminal illness?
- How do children of different ages deal 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 there for 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?
- Spiritual and religious beliefs may help comfort children
- How are children affected by the surviving parent’s grief?
- How should your child’s school be included?
- To learn more
Helping ChildrenWhen a Family Member Has Cancer:Dealing With a Parent’s Terminal Illness
For most people this is a painful and personal topic, and the information shared here may be hard to read at times. You might want to read a little at a time in private. Pacing yourself gives you a chance to absorb painful information.
A terminal illness cannot be cured or controlled and is expected to lead to the person’s death. By the time you’re told your cancer is terminal, you’ve probably already been dealing with it and its effects on your family for many months or even years. A few people find out that they have cancer when the disease is quite advanced, so they may not have as long to deal with its effects on their family. But no matter how long cancer has been part of your life, it still can be very hard for you and your family to think about all the things that go along with the end of life.
This is one in a series of pieces covering topics to help children when someone in the family has cancer. The others cover diagnosis, treatment, recurrence, losing a parent, and psychosocial support services. For more on these and other topics, go to the section “To learn more”.
In this discussion we will try to answer common questions parents have and help you take steps to prepare your child to cope with death. Although it’s not possible to control the reality of dying, it is possible to make a real difference in how your kids manage it and go on with their lives after you’re gone.
Last Medical Review: 01/14/2015
Last Revised: 03/20/2015