How to talk with my teenager about pain

Teenagers will sense and understand when you’re in pain, so it’s important to be honest with them about your experience.

Talking about pain

  • Teenagers understand medical facts, so you can be honest with them about what’s happening. You might tell your teenager, “My blood counts are down and I feel very tired today.”
  • Have an open conversation about how you feel. Include ways that you’re able to cope with your pain. For example, you might say, “I will feel better tomorrow if I take it easy today.”
  • Tell teens if there are things that they can do to help, without taking away from their own activities.
  • Give your teen chances to show love for you in ways that aren’t related to your pain.
  • Encourage teenagers to talk openly about their feelings with you and other adults.
  • Seek support from your partner, a friend, or a local support group.
  • Remember that your children will learn ways to deal with their fears by watching how you cope with yours.
  • Some teenagers become overly-involved in taking care of a parent in pain. In spite of your illness, it’s still important for them to do well at school, stay socially active, and take part in the activities that they enjoy.

Common reactions

Teenagers will understand your experience of pain. When deciding how to talk about your pain, think about these common teen reactions:

  • They will understand that pain can affect your mood.
  • They’ll understand that pain can make it harder to do day-to-day chores.
  • Some teens will feel anxious and worried for you, and will want to help you feel better.
  • Some teens will get so anxious and worried that they might have trouble keeping up with their usual activities.
  • Some teens will focus on their own issues and not talk about yours; it may seem like they don’t care about your pain. This may hurt your feelings, but it may be their way of taking their minds off of your pain and their fear.


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