Young Families + Breast Cancer

Are you dealing with breast cancer and raising young children?
We offer some useful resources to help you and your family cope with this life-changing experience.

Talking to your Kids about Breast Cancer

Child life specialist Morgan Livingstone paired up with Rethink to create this resource for how to talk to your children about breast cancer. Full of great tips, including how to deal with children at various life-stages and ages, this guide will help you navigate some of the obstacles you might run into when speaking to your children about your diagnosis.


Tips on how to talk to your kids about breast cancer:

    1. Use Simple Language – Try not to use medical terms or language that children are unfamiliar with. Often such terminology sounds scary or may have more than one meaning. Start simple, and as children gain awareness about cancer, cancer treatment, and medicine, you can clarify the different terms associated with each word or procedure.
    2. Answering WHY? Questions – “Why did this happen?” is a common question children ask after being informed of Mommy’s diagnosis. Children’s basic understanding about illness is that something causes an illness to happen, such as a cold, which is contagious and can be shared. Help them understand that cancer cannot be “caught” and that nothing they did or said caused you to get sick.
    1. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat – Young children ask questions repeatedly because they need to continually check in and clarify for themselves what is happening and why. Stay consistent with your responses, using the familiar family terms.
    2. Promoting and Supporting Children’s Coping – If your child asks you something and you are unsure of or don’t know the answer, it is perfectly OK to say: “That’s an important question, but I’m not sure of the answer/I don’t know the answer so I can’t explain it right now. Let’s talk later once I have a chance to talk to my doctor/nurse about it.” Make sure to follow up with your child about their question once you know the answer.
    3. Talking About Death – Always use the word “die” and/or “death” when discussing and explaining death and dying to your children. Children may have a distorted sense of what “death” actually means. Be sure to talk about the differences between real deaths and tv/movie deaths. Finding natural examples of death and the life cycle in nature can help children understand death as a natural part of the life cycle.

The Kids’ Guide to Mommy’s Breast Cancer

When Karyn Stowe was diagnosed with breast cancer, her first thought was her three young children. How will I tell them, what will I tell them, how will they react…? She was 37 and they were 2, 3 and 6. She looked everywhere for books that could help them make sense of and find comfort in their mommy’s situation, but whatever she picked up was either too somber in tone or too complicated for her kids to understand.

With the help of a grant from Rethink, Karen is filling the gap in support for young families going through it. The Kids’ Guide to Mommy’s Breast Canceris a creative and informative book for young children to enjoy and relate to as they and their families cope with the challenges of breast cancer and treatment.

It is available now for online orders, at various retailers across Canada.

Please contact Shawna@rethinkbreastcancer.com if you would like to make this resource available at your hospital, cancer support centre, or library.