Your parents are learning to cope with your cancer diagnosis and treatment just like you are.

You might feel like your parents are treating you like a little kid again. It can be hard to deal with them being so involved in your life again, especially if you have to rely on them for practical things like cooking or help getting dressed or having a shower.

The best way to understand what they’re going through, and let them know how you feel and what you need (and when you just want to be alone!), is to talk to them.


What your parents are going through

It helps to remember that your parents are dealing with a whole heap of stuff too, including:

  • coping with their own emotional reactions to the fact you have cancer – like shock, fear, disbelief, guilt, sadness, anger.
  • worrying about you and the rest of the family.
  • feeling helpless because they can’t fix this for you or make it go away.
  • worried about the medical bills and whether they will be able to get time off work to look after you (and your siblings).
  • trying to protect you from bad news and harsh realities.
  • trying to hide their feelings and put on a brave face for you.
  • trying to keep it all together – which might make them tired, stressed and short-tempered.

Talking tips
  • Think about what you want to say, and any questions you want to ask them, before you start.
  • It may be really hard to start with and there may be lots of silent moments. That’s okay.
  • It’s okay if you or your parent get upset. Keep going, or try again later.
  • Talking can be easier if you are doing something else at the same time – driving in the car, cooking in the kitchen.
  • Try not to worry about it too much – this whole thing is strange and scary and it may take time to work out the best way to talk to each other.
  • Ask a trusted family friend or close family member (brother or sister, or your favourite Aunt) to join in on your conversation.


Making your own decisions

Parents are used to being able to protect their kids and fix things for them. A cancer diagnosis can make them feel helpless as they can’t fix it or make it go away.

While you can play a large part in making your own medical decisions, parents sometimes feel like they have more experience in making big decisions or that they know what’s best for you. They might want to step in on your behalf (or health professionals might expect them to make the decisions) and this can cause some friction.

Tell them if you’d prefer to go to appointments by yourself or manage your medications on your own.


Need help?

Your YCS team is there to support your parents and family as well as you. Tell someone in your team if you think your parent is not coping, or if there’s family issues you need help with. Many families find that it helps to talk to someone outside the family to get support and information. Your YCS team can recommend a counsellor for confidential, non-judgemental advice.

To help your parents understand how you might be feeling and how they can help, check out the Youth Cancer Services YouTube channel: ‘Getting Cancer Young’ – where young people and their parents share their experiences living with cancer.