School-age children: How to talk with them about pain

School-age children are very good at figuring out how their parents are feeling. They can also understand when a parent is in pain. Let your children know if pain is keeping you from your daily routines, or if it’s affecting your mood or your overall well-being.

Talking about your pain

It’s important to be honest with your children – but try not to make them worry any more than necessary. Try these tips:

  • Be clear about whether you’re feeling tired, or whether you’re in pain.
  • Let your children know when you’re feeling better.
  • Find a balance between letting children know how you feel, and not overwhelming them with too much information. Say something simple, like, “I don’t feel well this morning.”
  • Let them know what you’ll be doing to help your pain. You could say, for example, “I’m going to take my medicine,” or “I’ll feel better after I take a bath,” or “I’m going to listen to some music.”
  • Let your children know if they can help. They might be able to bring in the groceries, or lower the sound level on the music being played in their room.
  • Try to keep their routine as normal as possible, even if it means asking other adults to help them.
  • Tell your children that you love them and that you’re still interested in their activities, even if you can’t join them at an event right now. You can say, “I wish I could go to your game, but since I can’t, I’ll be thinking about you instead.”
  • Look for support from your partner, your friends, or from other people who are on hand whenever you need help.
  • Remember that your children will learn how to deal with their fears by watching how you cope with yours.

Common reactions

School-age children will be able to understand your feelings of pain. When deciding how to talk about your pain, think about these common reactions:

  • School-age children might have specific questions about your cancer treatment, and how it will affect them. For example, they might want to know if you’ll still be able to take them to the movies on Friday night.
  • Children may get anxious or worried when they see you in pain.
  • Some children may want to do something to help you feel better, and they’ll be happy if you ask them to do a task that you can’t handle right now. Other children may be upset, though, if you ask them to help.


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