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Together is a new resource for anyone affected by pediatric cancer - patients and their parents, family members, and friends.

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Answering Children's Spiritual Questions

When your child asks you tough questions about cancer, it’s OK if you don’t have all the answers. Some questions may not have them.

But the search for answers is a journey your family can make together.

Hearing the words "your child has cancer" may lead you to question your spiritual beliefs. It is a natural reaction. It’s OK. But when your child has questions about faith and spirituality, you may feel like your own uncertainty is an obstacle

Don’t worry. You know more than you think you do.

Turn your uncertainty into curiosity. It can light your path to discovery.

While no one can tell you exactly what to say, there are tools you can use as guideposts:

Father of a pediatric cancer patient, talks to his son in the hospital room

Children may be afraid to ask questions because they do not want to upset their parents. Let your child know that it's ok to ask questions.

Affirm your child’s questions

Let children know that their thoughts about God and spirituality are important. Be open to talking, no matter the topic.

When children ask questions, they invite you to have a conversation. They’re observing your reactions. They are wondering, "Is it OK to ask questions?"

Children are often afraid to ask questions because they don’t want to upset their parents. Make sure they know it’s safe. Kids don’t need quick answers. They need to feel heard.

Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know"

Use that as an opportunity for a discussion. Share your beliefs and ask your child his or her thoughts.

Seek information. Turn to the writings of your faith. Consult the hospital chaplain. Talk to your own trusted minister, rabbi, priest, or spiritual adviser.

Tell the truth, keep it simple

Don’t give complicated replies. Respond to questions as simply as you can. If your child has more questions, address them. If your child changes the subject or wants to do something else, take that as a sign that he or she doesn’t want more information right now.

Ask for help

If you feel overwhelmed, use the hospital’s resources. Hospital chaplains are clinically trained in the spiritual needs surrounding a cancer diagnosis.

Many people around you at the hospital can help you through this journey.

Reviewed: June 2018