Childhood cancer awareness: How you can support a parent who has a child with cancer

The last thing parents want to hear is that their child has cancer. 

This diagnosis can make parents feel helpless, confused and frightened for the road ahead. 

The parents of the child diagnosed may need an extra set of hands, such as a friend or family member, and also someone they can lean on during this trying time. 

What they need from you may change overtime. At the start, they may need help with household chores such as cooking and cleaning. 


At other times, they may just need someone to listen as they talk through their emotions. Sometimes, they may just need some time to themselves. 

Below are ways that you can show your support for a parent whose child receives a cancer diagnosis. 

When a child receives a cancer diagnosis, there are many emotional challenges present for all members of the family. (BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

  1. Offer to assist with household chores
  2. Be a good listener
  3. Help out with other kids
  4. Give them space when they need it

1. Offer to assist with household chores 

When a child is diagnosed with cancer, it can put a big strain on the whole family. Parents may be wary of explicitly asking for help, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t need assistance. 

Any small gesture, like putting together a dinner that the family can pop into the oven, can be extremely helpful. Providing assistance around the house like taking the dog out for a walk or straightening up can also be a big help. 

Woman makes pizza with twin boys

Assisting with household chores such as cooking and cleaning can help take the pressure off the parents who are dealing with a child’s cancer diagnosis.  (iStock)

Also, don’t be afraid to offer your support. It can be hard for families to ask for help, but knowing you are there for them can provide a lot of comfort. 

2. Be a good listener

Families who receive a cancer diagnosis are going to be feeling a lot of different emotions — and they may just need a shoulder to lean on. 

Be a good listener and allow people to speak their mind to you. 


Try to stay away from providing your own medical advice when having these conversations, unless they ask for your opinion. 

Leave those conversations between the parents and the doctors to come up with the best medical treatment for the child. 

Your primary role in these conversations is being an active listener, not giving unsolicited advice. 

mom with baby

Parents who have a child with cancer have a lot to juggle, especially if they have other children in the household. The parents may need different things from you at different times, so try to be flexible and helpful in whatever ways they need you to be.  (iStock)

3. Help out with other kids

For a family whose child is diagnosed with cancer, a lot of the focus is going to be placed on that child, leaving the other children in the family possibly lacking support for the time being. 

Offer to help out with the other children in the family to keep them busy and also take some pressure off the parents. 


One way to do this is by offering to help with rides so that they can still attend after-school activities and spend time with friends. 

Maybe offer to take the other siblings for a day out, to take their mind off topics that are cancer-related or illness-related.

Kids playing in sandbox

On a day when the parents have to spend extra time with their child — for example, on treatment days — you might offer to watch over the other children in the family.  (iStock)

4. Give them their space when they need it

While it is important to provide support, you also don’t want to be overbearing. 

Don’t step outside your bounds and be mindful of when the family wants time to themselves. 


They’ll need your support, but will also need to spend time alone with their kids. Don’t be offended if a family needs a little bit of space. 

Remember that they are going through a difficult time. There may be periods when they need extra support, and other moments when they’ll need a little extra space. 

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