Supporting children of parents who are dying

Can Oncol Nurs J. 2009 Winter-Spring;19(1):10-2. doi: 10.5737/1181912x1911012.


Nurses, parents and other family members tend to feel ill equipped when talking to children about a parent's impending death. Adults often feel the need to protect children from the reality of a parent's imminent death. However, research indicates that children experience increased levels of anxiety when information regarding a parent's terminal prognosis is withheld from them. As a result, not telling children that their parent is dying does not avert a fearful situation for the child but, rather, it denies the child access to accurate information and appropriate emotional support. Oncology nurses are uniquely placed to provide guidance to parents on this topic. This paper will include a nursing narrative and practical strategies for communicating with children whose parents are dying.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Lecture

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Attitude to Death
  • Bereavement
  • Child
  • Child of Impaired Parents / psychology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Communication
  • Denial, Psychological
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms* / nursing
  • Neoplasms* / psychology
  • Nurse's Role / psychology
  • Oncology Nursing / methods*
  • Social Support*
  • Terminal Care / methods*
  • Terminal Care / psychology
  • Truth Disclosure