Helping Children When a Family Member has Cancer: Understanding Psychosocial Support Services

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Why do some people resist getting help with emotional or family problems?

For many people who are just starting to deal with cancer, merely sorting through the many medical decisions is a huge challenge. They may not have the energy to cope with much more, so emotional issues get pushed aside until later. This makes sense because people can only cope with so much at one time. But there are some basic things that children need to know as soon as a parent learns about the cancer. These include the simple facts about what cancer is, how it’s treated, and how it affects the child’s life. You need to talk about these things in words that fit the child’s age and development. For more information, please see Helping Children When A Family Member Has Cancer: Dealing With Diagnosis and Helping Children When A Family Member Has Cancer: Dealing With Treatment.

One of the issues that comes up when you need support services is how you feel about asking for help. People sometimes think they should know how to handle every problem that comes up even though they have never had cancer. Some think asking for help is a sign of weakness. In fact, the opposite is true. Asking for help is a sign of strength. Learning what to expect from yourself and other family members can help you solve problems faster. Helping your children cope with your illness will teach them that while we cannot control everything that happens in life, we can control how we choose to deal with problems.

There are other reasons to ask for help. During periods of active treatment, you may feel tired and overwhelmed with physical symptoms. Your family members have their own reactions and worries to deal with, along with helping you with your physical needs. If family problems are worrying you, it may distract you from your recovery. This can make it harder for you to do the things you need to do to get better.

Along with their worries about a sick parent, children are dealing with other concerns and stresses. They must keep up in school, manage relationships with siblings and friends, and do their chores at home. They are also growing and changing daily in how they think about life and themselves. It may seem to be too much for them to deal with your illness. Asking for help and learning how other families deal with these problems can help save your energy and guide your children through a tough time.

The health care team wants to help families enjoy life, even in the face of cancer treatment. It will help if you can make good choices about managing the illness, remain hopeful about the future, and feel some control of the situation. You never want to feel that your whole identity has become wrapped up in being a cancer patient. You always have choices about how to feel and think about the situation. With your help, your children can also learn how to deal with cancer and its treatment, and keep their normal growth and development on track at the same time.

Last Medical Review: 08/09/2012
Last Revised: 08/09/2012