Helping Children When a Family Member Has Cancer: Dealing with Recurrence or Progressive Illness

For someone with cancer, one of the hardest parts is when the cancer keeps growing during treatment or comes back after treatment. It’s hard for their loved ones, too, and may be extra hard for children and teens.

You may find that you’re even more worried now (if that’s possible) than you were when you first found out you had cancer. And it might have been many years since that happened. No matter how much time has passed, you may find yourself facing all-too-familiar feelings of fear and uncertainty. Each person close to you will go through feelings like this, too. Your children are likely well aware of your feelings (and that of the other parent) during this time, so we’ll discuss some of what’s happening with you before we address what they may be going through. Then we’ll try to help you understand what your kids might be thinking and feeling, and share some ideas on how you may be able to help them through this time.

This discussion is written for a parent with cancer, but it can be used during the illness of any adult who’s important to a child. If the person with cancer is a child or teen, see our Children Diagnosed With Cancer series.

This is one in a series of pieces covering topics to help children when someone in the family has cancer. The others cover diagnosis, treatment, terminal illness, losing a parent, and psychosocial support services.