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23 March 2024

Princess of Wales praised for telling her children of cancer diagnosis

23 March 2024

Experts on child mental health have praised the Princess of Wales in facing the “unenviable task” of telling her children about her cancer diagnosis.

University of Oxford associate professors Louise Dalton and Elizabeth Rapa stressed the importance of speaking honestly to children and young people about serious illness.

The academics, whose area of research specifically focuses on talking to children about serious illness, praised Kate for her “powerful and personal announcement” which highlighted the challenging conversation facing millions of parents around the globe.

Even very young children notice when the adults around them are more stressed or start taking telephone calls behind closed doors

William and Kate have focused on their children, taking the time to sensitively share the state of the princess’s health with Prince George, 10, Princess Charlotte, eight, and Prince Louis, five.

In a video released on Friday, Kate said: “It has taken us time to explain everything to George, Charlotte and Louis in a way that is appropriate for them, and to reassure them that I am going to be OK.”

It is understood the video was released on the day William and Kate’s three children began their Easter school holidays, to take advantage of the break to shield them from coverage of their mother’s health.

When children are not told about what is happening they can reach their own conclusions and mistakenly feel they are “in some way responsible or to blame”, Prof Dalton said.

She continued: “Despite adults’ understandable desire to protect children from upsetting or worrying news, it is important to talk honestly to children and young people.

“Even very young children notice when the adults around them are more stressed or start taking telephone calls behind closed doors.

“Research shows that children want to know about what is happening when an adult they love is ill and that effective communication with children about illness is associated with better psychological functioning.”

The academics lead a programme of work focused on the importance of communicating with children about a loved one’s serious illness such as cancer.

Research suggests that when children are given an explanation of what is happening in their family, it can lead to better family functioning and mental health outcomes.

Prof Rapa said parents must also talk about some of the emotional impact of the news with their children.

She added: “It’s important to include children in conversations about illness in the family as soon as possible so that they have time to understand and make sense of the situation and they are not left to worry alone.

“The powerful and personal announcement by the Princess of Wales today highlights the unenviable task facing millions.”

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