With Kate Middleton's cancer in the news, here's how to talk to your child about serious illnesses

Karen Garcia, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Lifestyles

LOS ANGELES — When Kate Middleton announced her recent cancer diagnosis, she emphasized the time she and her husband, William, Prince of Wales, took to share the news with their three children.

Talking to pre-adolescent children about serious illnesses is the right course of action for any family because children can sense change, said Kathleen Ingman, a pediatric psychologist at the Cancer and Blood Institute at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

"Keeping information from them, even from young children, can often lead to anxiety because they know something is happening but don't know what it is," Ingman said.

In a video announcement, the Princess of Wales said that the undisclosed form of cancer was detected after she underwent a "major abdominal surgery" in London at the beginning of the year. She is currently undergoing chemotherapy.

The 42-year-old said it's taken time to recover from surgery, undergo treatment, and explain her medical situation to her three children — Princes George, 10, and Louis, 5, and Princess Charlotte, 8 — "in a way that's appropriate for them and to reassure them that I'm going to be OK."

Ingman and Lauren Schneider, clinical director of child and adolescent programs for grief support center Our House, spoke to The Times about how to talk to young children about serious illness and its effect on the whole family.


As their first piece of advice, they encourage families to make kids a part of the discussion right away because children are very sensitive to minute changes in their environment, Schneider said.

"It prevents [the information] from growing into a big piece of news that then feels like a scary thing to drop all at once after a delay," Ingman said.

A lack of information can also lead the child to be fearful, she said, or their imagination might "take them places that might end up being worse than what the actual truth is."

The first of many conversations about a serious illness


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