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Pediatric cancer: Support for parents

Finding out your child has cancer is overwhelming. Here are tips and resources so parents can care for themselves and their children.

September 28, 2023

A pediatric cancer diagnosis affects the entire family. Parents want to do everything they can to care for their child in need, but it’s challenging to manage your own emotions and responsibilities while caring for your family members. During this time, it’s important to make time for yourself and reach out for support. We’re here to provide you with helpful resources and connect you with even more sources of strength and support.

How to talk to your child about cancer

Talking to your child about cancer is incredibly challenging, but remember, you know your child better than anyone, and they have always depended on you for helpful, truthful information. Try to stay calm when you talk to your child. The ways in which you discuss cancer with your child will depend on their age. The National Cancer Institute offers tips for speaking with children diagnosed with cancer, from one to 18 years old.

If your child is old enough to have heard about cancer before their diagnosis, let them express what they’ve heard about it. If they are worried that cancer will lead to death, remember that that isn’t always the case, and that just because it has happened to one person, doesn’t mean it happens to every person. Sharing positive patient stories and meeting pediatric cancer survivors can help families stay positive and strong.

Preparing your child for symptoms, physical changes and side effects of treatment

Cancer treatments may cause changes in your child’s appearance, which can cause sensitivities and unwanted responses from others. That’s why it’s important to prepare for the physical changes by letting your child pick out a hat, scarf or wig ahead of time.

You may also want to discuss how to deal with people staring at your child or asking personal questions. You and your child might want to think of a response or decide to ignore this behavior.

It’s also key to work with your oncology team to make sure your child is staying as healthy as possible during treatment to prevent certain side effects and stay on top of their mental and physical health.

How to help your child during treatment

Do your research and meet with child cancer specialists. Make sure the healthcare team you choose is able to provide the high-quality, compassionate care your child deserves.

Forming a strong relationship with your child’s care team is key. Be respectful and honest. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and take notes. Learn about your child’s condition and what treatments are being administered. If you decide to do your own research online, ensure that your sources are credible.

Help create a sense of normalcy and fun for your child

Cancer turns lives upside down. Children may have to isolate at home or spend long periods in the hospital. Your child’s friendships may be change or be tested, and plans, such as trips and vacations, may have to change or be postponed.

You can provide comfort by bringing your child’s favorite things to the hospital, visiting the hospital’s playroom and encouraging your child to take part in social events and activities offered at the hospital. Learn about what activities your child can do (video games and drawing) to take their attention off of the things they can no longer do (sports and certain physical activities). Your child may discover talents they never knew they had in the process.

Find and accept support

Accepting help from others is beneficial to you and your child. Family members often want to help, but they may not know how. Think of specific tasks that you could use help with, such as cooking, cleaning and grocery shopping, and let people know how they can help you. You might also want someone to join you at your child’s important appointments.

Consider joining a support group. You might benefit from the experiences shared by other parents going through similar situations. If your emotions are making it difficult to get through the day, reach out for professional mental health support. Ask your healthcare provider for resources.

Don’t forget to care for yourself

Taking time for yourself is imperative. Find ways to relieve your stress, such as yoga and mindful breathing. Take breaks doing activities you enjoy, like getting coffee or calling a friend. Try to stay physically active by taking a class or going on walks. Exercise will also help lower your stress levels and help you sleep.

Pediatric cancer care in San Antonio

At Methodist Healthcare, we understand the life-changing impact that a cancer diagnosis can have on a child and their family. For more than 20 years, Methodist Children’s Hospital has provided a comprehensive, one-stop model of care to ensure comprehensive therapy and psychosocial support for adolescents and young adults (AYA) facing cancer. Learn more about our pediatric cancer programs. To schedule an appointment, call the Methodist Children’s Hospital Cancer and Blood Center at  (210) 575-2222.

Source: National Cancer Institute

September 28, 2023
Methodist Children's Hospital

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