How do I tell my kids that Grampa has cancer?

My 78 yo Dad was just diagnosed with prostate cancer. The full extent is yet to be determined. My understanding is that typically this is very treatable and probably not that big of a deal in the big scheme of things.

My question is does anybody have any insight as to how to tell my kids? I am always matter-of-fact with them in an age-approprate way. At 10 & 8 I think that I can be fairly straightforward with my girls about practically everything, within reason, including this.

I guess I should mention that we are active Christians and my kids attend parochial school. My Dad is philosophical about this and knows what will be will be, no one here gets out alive. So while this isn’t great news, hey, that’s life. Life goes on, and in that vein we are going to the Chicago Auto Show together like we do every year, my once a year bonding ritual with my Dad.

Any thoughts on what to say to my kids?

Well, you don’t necessarily have to say anything. Do you report every twist and turn of the health of every member of the extended family?

On the other hand, if this is going to affect Grandpa in ways that they are going to notice, then obviously they will worry if you (or he) pretend that nothing is wrong.

If you feel it is best to talk to them, the first step is to talk to Grandpa. It’s his prostate gland, not yours, and he may have views as to what, or how much, is said.

Whatever you do tell them should be the truth.

“I’ve got some very sad news about Grampa. He’s got an illness - called cancer - but we’re hoping that with good doctors and medicine he’ll soon be OK. So let’s say some special prayers for him and make him some Get Well Soon cards.”

This must be difficult for you, Ruok, I sympathise.

I’ve gone through this exact scenario twice, with both my father and my father in law.

Trying to explain it to my children was very difficult.

Tell the truth. In your case, you can quite truthfully say that grandpa is sick, but he’s being treated by the doctors, and there’s a good chance that he’ll be fine.

I left out an important point. Don’t write off your father in your own mind Ruok. Prostate cancer really is treatable, and if it hasn’t metastatised, isn’t going to kill him.

I’m sorry to hear about your dad.

I’m going to move this to IMHO since this is more of a poll than a question with a factual answer.

Off to IMHO.

DrMatrix - General Questions Moderator

Thank you for your thoughts.

One additional piece of info is that Gram & Gramps take the kids to choir & dinner every Wednesday. Their bonding time. So if there are any problems it will be noticed. We don’t anticipate that, but you never know.

Just so you know we all have a positive attitude about this. You are correct, it is very treatable. I would say that my Dad attitude is that worrying is a waste of time, this is treatable, life is short, have fun. Hence the auto show, life goes on.

We are always truthful to the kids. To be otherwise can bite you in the ass. We don’t report every aspect of our family’s health to them (there are some mental health issues) but we don’t hide things either. Age appropriate info, not every last detail. I will ask Gram & Gramps what their thoughts & wishes are though.

Again, thank you for your thoughts.

I hope your father has many more years with you and your kids.

My MIL is dying; we don’t expect her to regain consciousness.

The kids knew she was ill and in the hospital, but yesterday we told them the dying part. My daughter cried. My son said he understood. We lit a candle and said a prayer. They made cards for her (she will probably never see them). They decided to do dances for her.

The chicken dance and the Mexican hat dance.

Laughing and crying at the same time.

My FIL also has prostate cancer. FWIW, some types of prostate cancer are extremely slow moving and patients may never show any symptoms. I realize this is NOT always the case - but before you tell the kids anything, find out more about your dad’s specific situation.

In our case, my FIL’s doctors told him that he would be long dead of old age before the prostate cancer would even become an issue.

Humble Servant - I am so sorry.

Personally, I’d wait until you know something more definitive before you tell them anything. No need to get them worried ifit’s very treatable - then you can be upbeat and positive. Bu tif the news isn’t so good, and you’ve already told them that he should be fine, they may feel like you’ve lied to them. Once you know what the prognosis and treatment are to be, then discuss it with your kids. At 8 & 10 they’re old enough to understand it.

I’ll add your dad to my prayers tonight and say the rosary for him.


I would just let them know that Grandpa is ill and will need to go to hospital to get better. Too many details may clutter their minds and frighten them. If they have questions, then offer to answer them.

As noted above, with the advances in medicine today prostate cancer is very treatable.

My father had it yonks ago and was lucky to never have another episode of it.

Best wishes to you and your family.

Since grandpa has a regular bonding time with the kids, I’d suggest letting him tell them (with you there, of course.) It can be as simple as “I might not be able to spend as much time with you for awhile because I’m sick and have to go to the hospital. But I’ll be back in a few days.”

Children that age want to know what they want to know – and not much more. Give them the simple facts (how it’s going to affect THEM) and let them ask the questions.

Also, try to involve the kids during the recuperation so they don’t feel helpless. Let them call grandpa at the hospital (or visit if appropriate), send him get well cards, etc.

A friend of mine’s uncle has cancer. She’s seventeen. Her parents haven’t told her yet. They told a mutual friend of ours about it, but not their own daughter. I know this is kinda different, but I’d like to point out that your children, although they are younger, might be resentful if you don’t say anything.