Telling teens

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How do I tell 12 year olds a grandparent has terminal cancer 


    Thank you for getting in touch. I'm sorry to hear that the grandparent of a 12 year old  has cancer It is understandable that you will want to support them at this sad time.


      It sounds as though it’s emotional support you are looking for today.  To allow us to best support you, you are welcome to keep in touch to provide a little more information about the situation if you would like.   

    May I ask, are you the young person’s parent, perhaps this is your father or father in law?  If this is the case, please feel we are here for you as well.  You are welcome to reach out for support, either, here, on the phone line or web chat or email.  I will put some details below.

      If you are a family member perhaps the suggestions are slightly different to, for example a teacher or professional supporting the person.  Below are some initial thoughts, but the web page has some really good information.

    Assuming you are parent or family member, when talking to a young person, you will probably need time to cope with your own feelings before talking to the grandchild. You might want to speak a member of the grandparents Health team to get all the information you might need.  Having all the information helps with any questions that may come; knowing the answers is reassuring, but it’s also OK to say you will find out the answers. It is best to be honest with the young person. If they think you are being vague or hiding something, they may find it hard to believe they are being told the truth.   As hard as it may be, do not make things sound less serious than they are.

    Sometimes finding the right place is comforting, perhaps a place the person feels safe and most at ease to talk. As a parent or family member, you are the expert when it comes to this young person. You know the best way of communicating with them, how they might react and what support they will need.  See the first conversation as a starting point – it is the beginning of an ongoing process of gradually giving the young person small, relevant pieces of information and reassurance.   Allow the conversation to be directed by the grandchild’s reactions and the questions they ask.  Listen and keep it as open as you can.

    You may find the link to our webpage really helpful, it provides some things to think about, including a downloadable booklet, and support organisations for young people, such as Hope Support

    Talking the children and Teenagers.

    Whether you are a parent, family member or professional, the organisation Winstons Wish can be a great support.  You may feel initially they are mainly to support a grieving child, but they also give support to a young person facing a loss.  As you scroll down the page you will notice tabs for “the young person” “I am a parent or carer” “I work in a school” or “I am a professional”

    Winstons Wish

    Please know that we are here at Macmillan Cancer Support to help in so many ways. We offer emotional support to anyone affected by cancer so please do let anyone know, who needs support at this sad time.  Our freephone  number 0808 808 0000 is available  7 days a week,  8am-8pm as well as local Information and Support Centers which you can find via our In your Area search.

    In Your Area.

      I don’t wish to overwhelm you with information as you always come back to us whenever you feel you would like to.


    Take care,


    Macmillan Cancer Information and Support Advisor