If I test positive how will I explain all this to my  kids?

Parents are used to putting their kids first and it is no different when it comes to BRCA testing.  One of the very first things parents worry about when considering testing is how they’ll explain BRCA to their kids, should they test positive for a mutation. The concern can make the decision making  much harder. 

“Should I tell them at all?” 

“I don’t think I will feel confident explaining the science” 

“I don’t want to scare them – maybe it is better they don’t know?” 

“What’s the best age to start the conversation?” 

“I don’t want them to be anxious especially when they’re too young to do test themselves”

Fortunately, BRCA testing is not new and this aspect of the topic is really well researched. Here are some snippets of expert advice given to those who need to speak to their kids about BRCA. You won’t need to put this in to action yet, but reading these may allay some of your concerns now. Remember, anyone who tests positive receives support from an NHS genetic counsellor who’ll be able offer much help and support too.  

  1. Talking to children actually benefits them. It helps them to understand what’s going on, rather than having to make their own sense of things. It can provide reassurance and relieve concerns. It makes them feel valued and respected. 
  2. There is no right or wrong age.  Parents can consider the correct age – taking in to consideration the child’s developmental stage, ability to understand, what their potential reaction may be and what else is going on in their life.  
  3. Keeping a secret can be more harmful. It can be a burden for the parent and could mean you are caught off guard if the child brings it up.  
  4. Setting makes a difference. Making the setting informal, such as while on a drive, or washing up together, can make a real difference to how the information is received.  
  5. You don’t need to say everything at once. Infact, drip feeding information in an age-appropriate way allows children to gradually learn and cope better.  
  6. Remember: each child and family is different and no one size fits all.  It’s okay to use your parental instincts in deciding how to approach your children.   

The Royal Marsden Hospital has created an excellent guide about BRCA, where this topic is covered extensively. This can be accessed from their patient information library here.