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When Your Parent Has Cancer: A Guide for Teens

  • Posted: 04/12/2011

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How you can help your parent

Help with care
Help by being thoughtful
Help by staying involved

"Some days I felt really good about the little things I could do for my mom. Other times there wasn't anything I could do except just be with her. We didn't always have to talk. Even when I was quiet, I think my mom could sense my love."
- Vanessa, age 16

Here are some things that others have done to help their parent at home. Pick one or two things to try each week.

Help withcare

Spend time with your parent.
Watch a movie together. Read the paper to your parent. Ask for help with your homework. Give hugs. Say, "I love you." Or just hang out in silence.

Lend a hand.
Bring water or offer to make a snack or small meal.

Helpby being thoughtful

Try to be upbeat, but be "real," too.
Being positive can be good for you and your whole family. But don't feel like you always have to act cheerful, especially if it's not how you really feel. It's okay to share your thoughts with your parent--and let them comfort you. Be yourself.

Be patient.
You are all under stress. If you find you are losing your cool, listen to music, read, or go outside to shoot hoops or go for a run.

Share a laugh.
You've probably heard that laughter is good medicine. Watch a comedy on TV with your parent or tell jokes if that is your thing. Also, remember that you're not responsible for making everyone happy. You can only do so much.

Buy your parent a new scarf or hat.
Your parent might enjoy a new hat or scarf if he or she has lost their hair during treatment.

Helpby staying involved

Keep your parent in the loop.
Tell your parent what you did today. Try to share what is going on in your life. Ask your parent how his or her day was.

Talk about family history.
Ask your parent about the past. Look through pictures or photo albums. Talk about what you’re both most proud of, your best memories, and how you both have met challenges. Write, or make drawings, about what you and your parent share with each other.

Keep a journal together.
Write thoughts or poems, draw, or put photos in a notebook that the two of you share. This can help you share your feelings when it might be hard to speak them aloud.

Help with younger brothers and sisters.
Play with your brothers and sisters to give your parent a break. Pull out games or read a book with your siblings. This will help you stay close and also give your parent time to rest.

"Before my dad got cancer, I didn't take time to really notice all the stuff I had going for me. But I've learned to open my eyes more. Bad things happen in this world--like my dad getting cancer-- but it's a pretty wonderful place, too. Even while there's been a lot of added pressure on our family, I've learned to appreciate every day more."
- Kenyatta, age 18
"The journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step."
- Lao Tzu