There’s never going to be a good time to tell your children you have cancer. No matter what, it’s going to be painful for you and your children. You’ll decide when it’s the right time to tell your children about your diagnoses in your own time. When that time comes, here are 4 tips to prepare you for the difficult conversation.

1. Be Honest

As parents we always want to protect our children from getting hurt. It will be painful for your children to find out you have cancer, but you have to be honest with them. It’s going to be tempting to “sugar coat it” or play it off as if it’s not as bad as it really is in order to mitigate the pain, but try to avoid this temptation. Give them accurate information now so they won’t be confused later.

2. Help Them Understand

Cancer is a complicated topic, especially in the mind of a small child. Try to explain your diagnosis to your children in a way that will make sense to them. The last thing you want is for your children to come up with their own ideas for what cancer is and let their imagination get the best of them.

3. Tell Them What to Expect

There are going to be a lot of changes going forward. Tell your children what to expect in order to help them adjust. If you have to undergo chemotherapy, tell them about the physical side effects. If there are going to be changes in your daily routine, explain to them what those are. It’s better to be up front about these changes so there aren’t too many unpleasant surprises later.

4. Reassure Them

Yes, there are going to be hardships on the horizon, but reassure your children that you’re still here for them and that in the end, everything will be okay. If you have younger children, make sure they understand that they did not do anything to cause your illness and that they will not contract cancer from you. Reassure them that you are going to do everything you can to make sure they are taken care of.

It’s important to keep the dialogue going after this initial conversation has ended. Kids are going to come up with questions later, so let them know that it’s okay to come to you with their questions and thoughts.