Course Overview


When a child’s parent or guardian is diagnosed with cancer, the child’s life is profoundly changed. This Course explains why talking to children about cancer is important, and examines the role that health professionals can play in this dialogue.

Learning Outcomes

  • Explain the importance of talking to children about cancer
  • Explain the impact that a parent or guardian’s cancer diagnosis can have on a child
  • Describe some strategies for talking to children about their parent or guardian’s cancer diagnosis
  • Identify when a child or family member may need to be referred to another health professional for counselling or intervention

Topics include:

  • Why talk to children about cancer?
  • How do children respond to a parent or guardian’s cancer diagnosis?
  • Strategies for health professionals to talk about cancer with children

Target audience

All health professionals, but especially those working in oncology, paediatrics, child or adolescent mental health, maternal and child health, and primary care.


Provide health professionals with practical advice on how to talk to children when someone close to them is diagnosed with cancer.


A patient diagnosed with cancer may be the parent, guardian or primary caregiver of a child. The ability to support patients in how to talk to the children in their lives as well as talking with children is an important part of providing holistic care. Children are often inquisitive; they are curious and may seek explanation from those around them regarding their parent or guardian’s cancer diagnosis. Such questions may be overwhelming and difficult to answer. However, current research provides health professionals with guidelines on the best way to talk with children to help them adjust.

Healthcare providers may benefit from advice on how to handle these conversations and on how to best assist a child when their parent or guardian is diagnosed with cancer. Further, health professionals are often asked by parents or other relatives how to respond to questions a child may ask, what information is appropriate to discuss with children, or when a child should be referred to speak with a professional such as a counsellor or psychologist. Health professionals play a key role in the facilitation of referrals to other supports, however it is important that they feel confident about how to manage such requests from parents or relatives.

Health professionals in Australia that are registered with AHPRA are required to obtain continuing professional development (CPD) hours/points each year that relates to their context of practice, in order to comply with mandatory regulatory requirements.