School-age children: Should I share my fears?

It’s important to be honest with children between the ages of six and twelve, because they can be good at figuring out how a parent feels. But it’s also important to show your feelings in a way that gives them the least amount of worry.

Try not to lean on your children as your main emotional support — even if it seems like they can understand and handle it. Think about sharing your greatest fears with other adults, with a member of your health care team, or with your clergy instead.

It’s important to:

  • Look for support from your partner, a friend, or other grown-ups who can listen and help.
  • Remember that your children will learn how to deal with their fears by watching how you cope with yours.

How to share fears

  • Let your children know that it’s normal to feel worried when a parent is sick.
  • Say that you’ll let your children know if they can help you.
  • Remind them about problems that both of you have dealt with in the past. Explain how you’re coping with your own fears about cancer, and talk about ways that you can handle your fears together.
  • Explain what other people are doing to help you through this illness.
  • Let your children know when you’re feeling okay, so that they don’t have to guess.

Common reactions

It’s okay to share some of your worries with preteens, but before doing it, think how they might react. For example:

  • They may want to know why you are worried.
  • They may want to know what it means if you’re feeling scared. Are you going to die?
  • They will want to hear that they are not the cause of your illness, even if they don’t ask.
  • They will want to know that you will feel better at some point.


American Cancer Society. (2005). Helping children when a family member has

Blum, D. CancerCare Connect. (2005) Helping children when a family member has cancer. Retrieved 6/30/08 from

Harpham, W. (1997). When a parent has cancer: a guide to caring for your children. New York: HarperCollins.

National Cancer Institute (n.d.) When someone in your family has cancer. Retrieved 7/1/08 from