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When Your Parent Has Cancer: A Guide for Teens

  • Posted: 04/12/2011

You and your friends

Having fun and making new friends
Dealing with hurtful remarks

Your friends are important to you, and you’re important to them. In the past, you could tell them everything. Now that your parent has cancer, it may seem like a lot is changing—even your friendships. Here are some things to think about:

Your friends may not know what to say.

  • It is hard for some people to know what to say. Others may think it's rude to ask questions.
  • Try to be gentle on friends who don't ask about your parent's cancer or how you are doing.
  • You may need to take the first step.

Try saying something like this . . .

"Talking about what's going on with my mom/dad is hard. I know that it's not easy to ask questions. Is there anything you want to talk about or know?"

Your friends may ask tough questions.

  • You may not always feel like answering questions about your parent's cancer or treatment.
  • Try saying something like this: "Talking about what's going on right now is hard, but it's nice of you to ask. The doctors are saying: [add in you own information here]..."

If you don't feel like talking, try saying something like this . . .

"Thanks for asking about my mom/dad but would it be okay if we talked about this later?"

Your friends have their own lives.

  • It may feel like your friends don't care anymore. It might seem as though their lives are moving on, and yours isn't. It can be hard to watch them get together with others or do things without you. But try to understand that they have their own lives, too. They aren't facing the situation you are right now, so it may be hard for them to relate.

You might want to try saying something like this . . .

"I miss hanging out together. I know that I've had a lot on my mind since my dad got sick. I'm glad we're still friends. Want to hang out tomorrow?"

Havingfun and making new friends

Old friends

Even though you may have a lot on your mind, you can still get together with your friends and have a good time. If you can't leave home as much, ask if your friends can come over. Take time to relax. It's good for you. Make a list of fun things you and your friends like to do together. Then do them!

New friends

A lot is happening to you right now. Sometimes old friends move on. You may not have as much in common as you used to. The good news is that you may find yourself making new friends. Kids who used to just pass you in the halls may now ask you how you are doing. Kids who you used to be friends with may enter your life again. Be open to new friendships.





Going to support groups at the hospital or clinic is a good way to meet new friends. It helps to connect with people who are going through some of the same things that you are. Try to do fun things together. The break will be good for all of you!

Dealingwith hurtful remarks

Unfortunately, some kids may say mean things. Others speak before they think and before they get the facts. No matter the reason, it can hurt when kids make jokes or say hurtful things about you, cancer, or your parent.

What can you do?
  • Ignore the comment.
  • Say, "Hey, my dad has cancer. It's not funny. How would you feel if it was your dad?"
  • Being bullied? Go to your teacher, principal, or guidance counselor right away.
"Do not protect yourself by a fence, but rather by your friends."
- Czech proverb