Our Support Line is open every weekday from 9am-7pm (AEST). Call us on 1800 592 410 or contact us
Your browser is not supported by this website, please consider browsing the site in a modern browser.

Resources

Parenting through cancer

Parents go through a rollercoaster of emotions when their child is diagnosed with cancer. Below are some ideas on how you can support yourself and your family.

Dad and son in front of a laptop

From diagnosis to treatment, through to end of treatment, the parenting journey changes. Parents of a diagnosed child may experience a strong range of emotions such as anxiety, stress, overwhelm along with uncertainty about their child’s future.

The childhood cancer experience is different for every family.  The family dynamics can change after diagnosis, with each parent taking on a different role from what they are normally used to, and this can be an emotionally challenging time for every member of a family.

One parent may have to quit their job to be full time carer and the other parent may have to take on the majority of the household responsibilities and looking after their other children.

Younger children diagnosed with cancer sometimes talk about feeling left out of discussions or decisions, while older children might have issues with losing their independence or finding their parents becoming overly protective. Sometimes siblings feel forgotten and feel like different expectations have been set for them, such as behaving perfectly or helping more than they usually would with household chores. Siblings can feel angry or annoyed when they see special treatment being given to their diagnosed brother or sister.

You have an important role in your children’s lives and you can support your them by:

  • Being someone your children can turn to and have open communication with, feeling seen and heard
  • Involving your diagnosed child in discussions with their medical team, giving them age-appropriate information about their cancer.
  • Being as honest as you can about your own fears and what you’re doing to manage them. Children are perceptive and they’ll notice when you’re upset
  • Helping your children build a support network of family, friends and professionals they can talk to when they can’t come to you.
  • Put yourself and your family at ease by spending time together. Play games with them, watch a movie or read them a story before bed
  • Help your diagnosed child and continue any family traditions that may be important to them even if he or she is in hospital

Being a good listener is quite a skill and it can really help you understand what your child is thinking or feeling. Here are some things you can do to improve:

  • Don’t try to fix everything, sometimes just listening is extremely helpful
  • Ask questions to make sure you understand what your child means
  • Looking for body language and other non-verbal signs. This can also show you how and what they’re feeling
  • Use humour, showing them it’s okay to laugh
  • Don’t be afraid of silence
  • Let them be scared or angry and let them know it’s normal

Cancer treatment takes time and each day may present different challenges. It can be easy to let your child push boundaries during this time and this is completely normal because sometimes you need to do whatever it takes to get through the day.

There can be a lot of change, so consistency and routine are important.

  • Keep mealtimes the same times during the day of you can
  • Getting enough sleep with a good bedtime routine
  • Exercise for children and parents, even if it’s a walk around the block
  • Spend quality time with each other, doing things you all enjoy
  • Keep the school routine if your child is up to it

Check in with each other consistently. Depending on your child’s treatment and how they are feeling physically, encourage them to stay involved in as many of their regular activities as they are able to, including household chores.

When your child has cancer, and life has suddenly come to a halt, it’s important to look after yourself, stay healthy, both physically, emotionally and mentally. It might seem difficult to find time for your own needs, but it will help you and the people around you.

Parents can become overprotective with their child when they are diagnosed with cancer. For younger children, this can be uncomfortable and they feel they are being ‘babied’. A teenager or young adult who is already used to having independence, may feel overwhelmed with the increase of attention on them. The challenge is to find a balance between being protective and being over-protective.

Each parent’s experience is unique, and we hope this article gives you some ideas and helps explain some of the feelings and emotions parents facing childhood cancer may go through. 

Please remember that Redkite is here to support you as you help care for a family facing childhood cancer. You can contact us here.

To find out more from the families themselves, you can read their stories here

View stories

Cancer makes everyone feel disempowered, but good communication can help. 

Request information And support

We’re ready to help. Please call us on 1800 REDKITE (Mon – Fri 9am – 7pm AEST), or fill out the form below.

    Services interested in:

    This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

    Case Studies

    WorkCompanion: Practical help to re-enter the workforce

    “Having this support for me to re-enter the workforce has just completely changed the trajectory of our family, financially and helped me emotionally and mentally, feeling like I can achieve things again.”

    WorkCompanion: Practical help to re-enter the workforce

    “Having this support for me to re-enter the workforce has just completely changed the trajectory of our family, financially and helped me emotionally and mentally, feeling like I can achieve things again.”

    Ideas

    Counselling: when you’re ready, we are here

    Redkite provides free counselling for adults. You can talk to us once or twice, or more often if you need. It’s up to you.

    Counselling: when you’re ready, we are here

    Redkite provides free counselling for adults. You can talk to us once or twice, or more often if you need. It’s up to you.

    Ideas

    How to help mums facing childhood cancer

    It can be hard to know how to help a mother when their child has been diagnosed with cancer. Offering the right help can make all the difference.

    How to help mums facing childhood cancer

    It can be hard to know how to help a mother when their child has been diagnosed with cancer. Offering the right help can make all the difference.

    Relationships

    A guide for grandparents of children affected by childhood cancer

    This booklet answers some of the many questions which grandparents of children with cancer told Redkite they would have liked answered when their grandchild was diagnosed and during their grandchild’s treatment phase.

    A guide for grandparents of children affected by childhood cancer

    This booklet answers some of the many questions which grandparents of children with cancer told Redkite they would have liked answered when their grandchild was diagnosed and during their grandchild’s treatment phase.