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When Your Parent Has Cancer: A Guide for Teens

  • Posted: 04/12/2011

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Finding support

Tips for talking with your parent
Why go to a counselor?
Finding a counselor
Joining a support group

It may not be easy to reach out for support—but there are people who can help you. This chapter has tips to help you talk with your parent(s), reach out to a counselor, and/or join a support group. Read on to find out what’s worked for other teens.

Tipsfor talking with your parent

Prepare before you talk.

Step 1: Think about what you want to say.

Step 2: Think about how your parent might react. How will you respond to him or her?

Find a good time and place.

Step 1: Ask your mom or dad if they have a few minutes to talk.

Step 2: Find a private place—maybe in your room or on the front steps. Or maybe you can talk while taking a walk, shooting hoops, or doing an activity you both enjoy.

Take things slowly.

Step 1: Don’t expect to solve everything right away. Difficult problems often don’t have simple solutions.

Step 2: Work together to find a way through these challenges. Some conversations will go better than others.

Keep it up.

Step 1: Don’t think you have to have just one big conversation. Have lots of small ones.

Step 2: Make time to talk a little each day if you can, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

Jena listened to her best friend Renee and planned on talking with the counselor at her school. Other kids talk with social workers at the hospital. Going to a counselor doesn’t mean you are crazy. It shows you have the courage to see that you need help to get through a very tough time.

Sometimes... talking to friends is not enough. When you’re having a hard time, it can be helpful to talk with a counselor or social worker.

Whygo to a counselor?

Teens say it can be helpful to talk with someone outside the family—someone who doesn’t take sides. A counselor is a person who will listen to you. They will help you find ways to better handle the things that bother you and gain strength in your situation.

Findinga Counselor

  • Talk with your mom, dad, or someone else that you trust. Let them know you would like to talk to a counselor. Ask for help making appointments and getting to visits. Sometimes the counselor will even let you bring a friend.
  • Ask a nurse or social worker at the hospital if they know someone you can talk to.
  • Talk with your guidance counselor at school
Don’t be shy about asking for help.
You may think: “I can solve all my own problems.” However, when faced with tough situations, both teens and adults need support from others!
"Turn your face to the sun, and the shadows fall behind you."
- Maori proverb

Joininga Support Group

Another good outlet is a support group. Some groups meet in person; others meet online. Some groups go out and have fun together. In these groups you'll meet other teens going through some of the same things that you are. At first this may not sound like something you want to do. Other teens say they thought the same thing - until they went to a meeting. They were surprised that so many others felt the same way they did and had advice that really seemed to work. A doctor, nurse, or social worker can help you find a support group.

"Grandma raised me to care about school. But after she got cancer, I had too much on my mind. And there was a lot to do to take care of her when I got home from school. My grades started to slip. I told my guidance counselor what was going on, and she shared some things that had worked for others. Now, whenever things start to get me down, I talk with my guidance counselor, who helps me feel less stressed. What's best is that she keeps everything we talk about private."
- Nick, age 15