- 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
Christ GH, Christ AE. Current approaches to helping children cope with a parent’s terminal illness. CA Cancer J Clin. 2006;56(4):197-212.
Dehlin L, Reg LM. Adolescents’ experiences of a parent’s serious illness and death. Palliat Support Care. 2009;7:13-25.
Harpham WS. When a Parent Has Cancer: A guide to caring for your children. New York: William Morrow Paperbacks, 2004.
National Cancer Institute. Pediatric supportive care (PDQ®). Accessed at www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/supportivecare/pediatric/HealthProfessional on June 15, 2012.
National Cancer Institute: When Someone In Your Family Has Cancer. Accessed at www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/when-someone-in-your-family-archived/page1 on May 26, 2010. Content no longer available
Seccareccia D, Warnick A. When a parent is dying: helping parents explain death to their children. Can Fam Physician. 2008;54(12):1693-1694.
Welch AS, Wadsworth ME, Compas BE. Adjustment of children and adolescents to parental cancer. Parents’ and children’s perspectives. Cancer. 1996;77:1409-1418.
Last Medical Review: 07/20/2012
Last Revised: 07/20/2012