Kids' Biggest Worry
How to Respond
Kids Can Cope - For Parents
A diagnosis of metastatic cancer, especially a recurrence of past illness, can naturally lead a child to ask, "Will you die?" This question is the one that parents are the most afraid of and leads some people to avoid having any conversation at all about the situation, no matter what the prognosis.
If this is the first time that you have spoken to your children about death, it can seem frightening. Sometimes children are afraid to ask this question but still worry and brood about it to themselves so it's a good idea to get it out in the open. If it's really not possible to deny that death is a possibility, you can answer in such a way that is realistic but will not make your children unbearably anxious. These are examples of what you might say:
- "Some people with cancer get all better and some don't. I am trying my best to get better."
- "That's really not something you need to worry about right now. I'll tell you if I think that's a possibility."
- "You know this is a serious situation. Its possible that I could die but I'm not doing that right now so let's focus on living."
- "It all depends on how I respond to treatment. Let's give the chemotherapy (or radiation) a chance to work."
The point here is to give the child a balanced response. There is no way people can live anything close to a normal life if they are totally focused on the future and how it might be if the worst happens. If death is a possibility, it should be acknowledged as such, but put into the perspective that life has to go on until death might need to be faced. After all, cancer treatment is advancing all the time and no one truly knows what any given patient's outcome will be.