Browser does not support script.
Skip to main content
Find out how we produce our information|
Cancer will affect your day-to-day life, but there are things you can do to help your children to understand what these changes might mean to them.
You and your children are unique. How you all respond to the situation will depend on different factors, including the way your family normally deals with feelings.
Some parents worry about showing their feelings or crying in front of their children. However, there are good reasons to show how you feel. Hiding or bottling up your feelings also takes up energy and can make you feel even more anxious. We have more information on the emotional effects of cancer|. Showing your feelings can make it easier for your child to show theirs - it’s like giving them permission to do the same.
The way children cope is often closely linked to how their parents cope. Children may need to be shielded from strong outbursts of emotions. But it’s okay to cry in front of them or tell them you’re fed up or angry about your illness.
Let them know that crying helps you feel better and there may be times when they’ll need to do the same. They shouldn’t think crying is babyish or that they have to be strong. Explain that feelings like sadness and anger| are normal and it’s okay to show these. This helps your children accept these feelings as normal, rather than be frightened of them or feel that it’s wrong to have them. Always let your children know how much you love them through words, hugs and kisses.
Sometimes your children may feel resentful| about not getting enough of your attention. Or you may feel irritated by them or lose your temper. Don’t be hard on yourself. The demands of children can be difficult to manage at the best of times. Your reactions may be quite normal or heightened because you’re under a lot of stress.
Talk this over with your partner or family to try to make sure you’re getting enough support and time out to help you cope. This can stop things at home from becoming too tense.
It can help to try to keep family life as normal and as stable as possible for the children. This isn’t easy but there are things you can do that may make it easier.
Disruptions and changes in routine are to be expected, but it’s important your children know how their day-to-day routines are going to be affected. Children, especially younger ones, like and depend on routine - it helps them feel more safe. Tell them about changes in advance and make sure they always know:
Sometimes, even with planning, arrangements have to change at short notice. Try to show your children that things can also be flexible and involve them as much as you can in any new plans.
Life can often be busy when you’re coping with cancer, so it's important to have some undisrupted time with your family:
Ask people who your children feel safe, comfortable and familiar with to look after them or take over some of the things you usually do. Younger children need consistency so it’s a good idea, if possible, to have the same person helping.
Even when family life is going well, it’s often hard to be consistent and to set rules and limits for your children. It’s especially hard when you’re coping with cancer and worried about your children’s reactions to your illness|. Your children need your love and support but they also need the usual discipline to help them to feel secure, so it’s important to try to keep to your usual family rules. If you’re worried about your child’s behaviour and need support, help is available|.
You may be caring for and supporting your children while coping with cancer and its treatment. If you are a partner or close relative|, you may be caring for and supporting the person with cancer and also the children. Whatever your situation, the emotional and physical demands are high. Taking care of yourself and getting enough support is important and will help you cope.
Getting enough rest is important, as your body uses up more energy than usual when you’re coping with treatment and/or stress. Rest gives your body time to recover. Try to get enough sleep, and pace yourself so you don’t overdo things.
Even if you don’t feel like it, try to eat healthily| if you can. This gives you more energy to feel better and improves your general health. Try to eat:
It’s good to get some exercise as well. Even just short walks can sometimes help you feel less stressed and sleep better. It’s great for the children as well.
There’s lots of support available to you and your family. It’s important to ask for help or to talk to someone like your doctor if you feel you’re not getting enough support.
If you’re the person with cancer, your cancer specialist and your specialist nurse can offer support and advice. You can also talk to your GP if you need emotional support, whether you’re the person with cancer or a relative. Occasionally some people may need more than advice and support from their healthcare professionals, family and friends. Sometimes it’s easier to talk to someone who’s not directly involved. Your specialist or GP can usually refer you to a counsellor or psychologist who can help.
Our cancer support specialists| can tell you more about counselling and can let you know about services in your area.
Social workers at the hospital may be able to help you find suitable childcare or help with finances| if needed, as well as emotional support.
Self-help and support groups offer a chance to talk to other people who may be in a similar situation and facing the same challenges as you. Joining a group can be helpful if you live alone or don’t feel able to talk about your feelings with people around you. Not everyone finds talking in a group easy, so it might not be for you. Try going along to see what the group is like before you decide.
We can help you find more information about cancer support groups| across the UK.
Many people find support on the internet. There are online support groups, social networking sites, forums, chat rooms and blogs for people affected by cancer. You can use these to share your experiences, ask questions, and to get and give advice based on your experience.
Our online community| is a social networking site where you can chat to people in our chat rooms, blog your journey, make friendships and join support groups.
We have more information about different organisations and useful websites|.
Content last reviewed: 1 June 2011
Next planned review: 2013
For answers, support or just a chat, call the Macmillan Support Line free (Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm)
If you have any questions about cancer, need support or just want someone to talk to, ask Macmillan.
If you have any questions about Macmillan we would love to hear from you| .
You can also follow us| on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr or YouTube.
© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
what are these?|