Talking to Kids: How to tell kids bad or scary news

How do you talk your kids about a cancer diagnosis? Well, let's talk about that today on Tips
on Teens. My name is Kent Toussaint. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist, and I specialize
in helping kids, teens, and families to live happier lives. I lead two organizations, Teen
Therapy Center and the nonprofit 501c3 organization, Child and Teen Counseling, both here
in Woodland Hills, California. Every Wednesday at noon, I jump onto Facebook Live to answer
your parenting questions. Let's answer today's. When Kate Middleton made her cancer announcement
about last week, it reminded me of our own situation. My husband has cancer and we haven't told
our kids yet. They're eight and 11. We're just not sure if we should tell them everything or if
it's better to give them just little pieces. We don't want to scare them. Do you have any advice
on how to approach this kind of conversation with kids? Yes. Thank you for this question. Unfortunately,
many families have to deal with this in one

way or the other. And the way I'd approach is number one, understanding what your kids, where
your kids are emotionally and what they are capable of understanding. And that's something
that only you can know because you know your kids. It also depends on how serious are the symptoms
and what is the treatment. If let's say it's very early on, there's not a lot of changes, you may
not need to talk much about it at all because it's not really changing their life. If it's a very
serious diagnosis and the cancer's really progressed and there's really aggressive treatment,
you kind of need to be direct. But it's not less about what you say, it's more about how you say
it. Do you explain it to them with compassion and confidence knowing that you and your husband
are doing everything you can To treat this so let's hypothetically say your husband has to go.
Sorry. I'm getting a bunch of texts right now Has to go through a lot of um, you know chemo treatment
Well, that's going to affect him considerably

and they're gonna see that so I think it's important to talk to them and help them understand
what he's going through, but that you guys are working with doctors and you're doing everything
you can to help him feel better. Additionally, how do we, and you hear me talk about this all the
time, of connection. How do we start creating more space to have quality time between your husband
and your kids? You know, God forbid he succumbs to cancer and he passes away, which is a horrible
situation, but it's a possibility. If that's the case, we want to make sure that the kids have
as much positive memories and connection with him as they can to take that into life without
their dad. But also even if he does survive, which hopefully he does, maybe that also creates
a better connection within the family and more closeness and more trust so you can have more
of these conversations in the future. Again, connection is king. It's the most important part
of the family. It's just as important as eating

and drinking water and good sleep and all those things. Connection is such a big part of a child's
developing self -esteem, self -worth, and view of the world. So regardless of the obstacles
that are in your way, and every family will deal with obstacles, the more open and honest you
can be from a place of compassion and confidence, I think that's what helps your kids. And through
that lens, I think you'll know what you need to share with them and what you don't need to share.
Again, what you share with an 8 and 11 year old may be different than a 16 and 19 year old, you know,
they may have very different conversations. Every family is going to be different and unique.
So I can't give you exactly what to share or not share because it really depends on your kids and
your family. But strengthen the connection, strengthen the ability to talk about these things
in a place of compassion. I think that will lead you to the right place. If you need help, you can
always consult with a therapist,

a grief therapist, a therapist who focuses on kids and teens will be great help for you guys too.
Anyways, that's our question for today on Tips on Teens. My name is Kent Toussaint. If you'd
like me to answer your question here on Tips on Teens, email us at tipsonteens at teentherapycenter
.com or direct messages right here on Facebook. We love your questions. Thank you so much. This
is Kent Toussaint with Teen Therapy Center and Child and Teen Counseling, and we'll see you
next time. Bye bye, guys.


When faced with the challenge of talking to kids about bad or scary news, it’s essential to approach the situation with sensitivity and understanding. Consider the emotional readiness of your kids and their capacity to comprehend the situation. If the health issue is not significantly altering the family dynamics, you may not need to delve into too many details. However, for more serious cases, honesty and directness are crucial, while delivering the information with compassion and assurance. Creating a safe and nurturing environment for open communication is key to maintaining the bond between children and parents. Remember, your approach in this situation serves as a model for future conversations, so strive to be open, empathetic, and confident in your discussions with your kids.

There’s more to say and we get into it in this Tips on Teens:

“When Kate Middleton made her cancer announcement about last week it reminded me of our own situation. My husband has cancer and we haven’t told our kids yet. They’re 8 and 11. We’re just not sure if we should tell them everything, or if it’s better to give them just little pieces. We don’t want to scare them.  Do you have any advice on how to approach this kind of conversation with children?”

Clinical Director Kent Toussaint answers your parenting questions every Wednesday at 12:00pm in our weekly segment Tips On Teens on Facebook Live. Have questions about parenting kids and teens? Send them to: We love to hear from you!

Head on over to our Facebook page every Wednesday at 12:00pm to watch LIVE!  Check out our page here –

If you have more questions or would like more information, please contact our Clinical Director, Kent Toussaint at 818.697.8555.