Communicating about cancer for parents and carers

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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”.
     mother and daughter having a conversation
  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.
     daughter and father hugging


cover image for the guide to canteen

A Guide to Canteen for parents and carers

Canteen understands that when cancer crashes into a family’s world, it can turn everything upside down. Cancer is the last thing anyone wants in their life, but now that it’s here, we can help you deal with it. This booklet tells you a bit about us and our services, how it all works and we’ve also got some tips and tools for you as parents, because we know this is just as overwhelming for you as it is for your child or children.