All Grown Up: Preparing Young Survivors for Life on their Own

young girl holds up a new dress to show her mother and grandmother after shopping spree

For parents who have cared for a child with cancer, a coming of age may be especially bittersweet. You may have feared that your child would never have a chance to do some of the things that come with growing up. You might be especially protective because you have spent so much time caring for your child and monitoring your child’s health. You may feel concerned that your child won’t take the steps needed to stay healthy without you.

But, as with any coming of age, the best you can do is prepare your young cancer survivor to be as ready as possible for the independent life that’s ahead. Whether you have a child who’s going away to college, taking a first job, or moving out on their own, the tips below can help you both get ready for the next big step.

  • Collect and pass along the details of their medical history.  Having detailed medical records is a must for anyone who has a history of cancer. If you don’t already have an up-to-date set of medical records and a survivor care plan for your young patient, or if it has been a while since your child finished treatment, talk with the care team. Having a detailed record of your child’s cancer experience and the long-term effects that can be expected from those treatments can help your child – and the care team – make the best health decisions in the future. 
  • Get in the know about insurance options, especially in the workplace. Although your child may never have considered things like pre-existing condition clauses, lifetime insurance coverage limits, and the costs of premiums, having the right kind of health insurance can play a big factor in how much it might cost if he or she becomes ill in the future. It can also play a part in the type of benefits a survivor should look for while searching for a job. Insurance is complicated, but it is critical, so talk to an expert if you or your child need help decoding what’s available and what’s best. 
  • Discuss ways to talk about their cancer history. Talking about cancer can be challenging, and your young survivor may have to make decisions about how to discuss health history with new groups of people. When should your child talk about his cancer with a roommate? A new friend? A potential romantic partner? Should he or she mention it in the workplace or to a boss? The answers to these questions are different for everyone, but by talking through these situations and even role-playing a few conversations, you can better prepare your child for what’s to come.

If you’d like to learn more about what to expect after treatment ends for a young person with cancer, the American Cancer Society can help. Click here to learn more.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master's-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

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