Guide to Canteen for parents and carers

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Part 1

Support for you

Tips for you if you have been diagnosed


Support for you

Whether you’re dealing with your own diagnosis or cancer in your family, our support services are here for you as parents and carers.



Our specialist counsellors can talk with you about the parenting challenges that cancer brings. They’re available seven days a week for phone, email and online counselling. Face-to-face sessions are also available at most Canteen offices during normal business hours. To speak with a Canteen counsellor about parenting or carer challenges, call 1800 945 215.


father seeking counselling about cancer


Online support

Parenting through Cancer, brought to you by Canteen and Camp Quality, is an online community where parents impacted by cancer can connect with each other, find evidence-based resources and chat to a counsellor. This community can help you with difficult topics such as:

  • telling your children you have cancer;
  • talking to your child about their diagnosis;
  • maintaining family routines when going through cancer;
  • returning to ‘normal’ after cancer is gone; and
  • managing grief and bereavement after losing a family member.

The community is for all parents impacted by cancer with children aged 0-25. Visit


Parenting through Illness webinars

Our webinar series provides practical tools, strategies, resources and services for parents impacted by a significant illness. Supported by Metricon. Visit


"I strongly recommend getting involved with Canteen to any family battling cancer. Because the thing is, when you’re diagnosed with cancer, it’s as if everyone around you starts talking in a different language. But Canteen is like a translation service for teenagers – it allows them to communicate at their own level in language that is age appropriate and applicable to them."
Mary – mother of 3


mother and teenagers cancer diagnosis


Tips for you if you have been diagnosed

  1. Prioritise open and honest communication with your family. Talking about cancer with your children can be incredibly difficult, but it’s the best way to help them cope. Find out more on
  2. Some families find it helpful to agree on a certain day and time to talk about cancer stuff. This can make it easier to start conversations, but also creates permission to focus on ‘normal life’ at other times.
  3. Your children may ask questions you don’t know the answer to, or don’t want to answer straight away. Tell them you need to check or think about it and that you’ll come back to them. You could say something like, “That’s a really good question and I don’t know the answer so I would like to talk to Dad/Mum/the doctor about it. I’ll let you know what they say”.
  4. Tell your children about possible physical changes or side effects in advance, this can help them feel less worried down the track. If they’re not prepared, they can mistake normal side effects as signs that your cancer is getting worse.
  5. Offering your children the chance to see the hospital and meet your doctors and nurses before you start treatment can help their understanding of what’s going to happen. It’s also a good idea to prepare them for what they might see when they visit you in hospital, for example that you’ll be hooked up to an IV drip.
  6. Family and friends are usually keen to help, but don’t know how. So be specific and let them know what you need. Tools like Gather My Crew ( let you easily ask your social network for help on day-to-day tasks, while removing the awkwardness of face-to-face conversations.
  7. Make a list of all the things that need to be done – anything you need to organise for your treatment, childcare, household chores, etc. Decide which ones are most important for you to do, which ones someone else can do, and which ones can wait.


"When you’re going through a cancer experience in the family, you miss out on so much. It’s hard to focus on things like school and socialising with friends. But thanks to Canteen I’ve been given a safe space and many opportunities to make up for what I’ve missed out on. I can now move forward."
Harry, aged 22


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