by CanTeen07/12/2018

How to Tell My Children's Friends and Their Parents My Partner Has Cancer

It’s up to you and your partner to decide who you do or don’t tell that they have cancer, and how much you share about what’s going on. This advice may help you work out who to tell and what to say. 

Who to tell 

There is nobody that you have to tell, but letting people know can make things a little easier for you. Think about who can support you best at this time.  

Who you tell is up to you – but you also need to be aware of what your partner wants and thinks is okay in terms of sharing the news. This can cause a bit of conflict if you have different ideas and feelings about telling people. You need to respect your partner’s wishes but also find ways to get support for yourself from family and friends. 

Also consider how your child might feel about you sharing the news. If you’re going to tell their friends or parents of their friends, make sure you talk to your child about it first so they know who knows what. If your child is an older adolescent or young adult you need to respect their wishes if there’s anyone that they really don’t want you to tell. And if you plan to override that, explain why you think it’s important to tell that person – for example, because they are probably going to find out from someone else, or you really need to ask them for help while your partner is having treatment.   

Telling family friends, their teachers/coaches and others who are involved in your child’s life can mean that there are other adults keeping an eye out for them.  

Tips for telling people your partner has cancer 

  • Think about what you want to say. 

Working out what to say to people can be the most difficult part. You could write it down, or even practice it with someone in your family. Join the online parent community to ask how other people in a similar situation have handled it. You can call a CanTeen counsellor (1800 835 932) to talk through how to handle these conversations and what to say. 

  • Only share what you’re comfortable with. 

Not everyone needs to know all the details.  

  • Be prepared for all types of reactions. 

People can ask some uncomfortable questions as well. Remember that they might not fully understand and are probably shocked by the news. They may have no idea what to say or do, or be worried about saying the wrong thing or upsetting you. 

  • Direct them to more information if they want to support your family.  

Cancer Council’s brochure How can I help? has straightforward advice for people about how they can support your partner and your family.  

You can send your child’s friends a link to CanTeen’s website where they can read about the kinds of things your child is going through and ways they can support them. 


More advice/support 

> Talk to a CanTeen counsellor (1800 835 932) to get advice about these conversations.  

> Join our online parent community to find out how other people have handled it.  


Useful sites/resources 

> CanTeen has a guide for young people about how to support a friend when someone in their family has cancer: