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When Your Brother or Sister Has Cancer: A Guide for Teens

  • Posted: 12/26/2013

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Finding Support

Here Are Some Tips for Talking With Your Parents
Talking With a Counselor
Why Go to a Counselor?
Finding a Counselor
Joining a Support Group

"Before I went to a support group I felt like my sister's cancer was just something that I had to deal with on my own. I thought it would be dumb and depressing to talk with others who were going through the same thing as me - but it's helped a lot! I would tell other kids to find a support group for sure. Check out more than one if you don't like the first one you go to."
- Devon, age 15

Don't let being afraid of the way you feel keep you from talking to your parents, a counselor, or kids in a support group.

For many people, starting to talk is difficult. Some teens don't have good relationships with their parents. Others are too embarrassed to talk about personal things. It can also just be hard to make the time to talk, with all that is going on. But you and your parents really can help each other.

TiP: 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!

Here Are Some Tips for Talking With Your Parents

Prepare before you talk.

Step 1

Think about what you want to say and about some solutions to the problem.

Step 2

Think about how your parents might react. How will you respond to them?

Find a good time and place.

Step 1

Find a private place, whether it's your room or the front steps. Or maybe you can talk while taking a walk or shooting hoops.

Step 2

Ask your parents if they have a few minutes to talk.

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.

Talking With a Counselor

Sometimes talking to friends and your parents is not enough. When you are having a hard time, it can be helpful to talk to a counselor. Friends Brice and Nick talk about what is happening in Brice's home:

Why Go to a Counselor?

"It took a few visits, but then I got to know and trust my counselor. She really listened to me and was like a coach who helped me learn new skills and see new ways of looking at things. I grew a lot."
- Samantha, age 15

Remember - going to a counselor means you have the courage to recognize that you're going through a tough time and need some help. Simply put: talking to a counselor can help you feel better. Counselors are specially trained to help you sort out your feelings, gain new skills to deal with what's going on, and find solutions that work for you. Teens who've talked with a counselor say it helped to talk to someone outside their circle of friends and family who didn't take sides, who they could trust. Others say they learned a lot about themselves and felt better able to face life's challenges.

"I was having a really hard time dealing with my sister's cancer. But I tried to be 'perfect' and pretend that everything was okay. I didn't want to stress my parents out even more. One day my aunt said it might help to talk with a counselor - even if it seemed like I had it all together. I was nervous at first, but I went. The counselor made me feel like I could tell her anything - and I finally opened up about how I was really feeling. It felt great to just have someone focus on me and what I was going through."
- Jen, age 16

Finding a Counselor

There are many ways to find a counselor. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Talk to your parents or someone else that you trust. Let them know you would like help to get through this difficult time. Tell them that you would like to talk to a counselor. Ask for help making appointments and getting to visits. Sometimes you can even bring a friend.
  • Ask a nurse or social worker at the hospital if they can give you the name of someone you can talk to.
  • Ask your guidance counselor or school nurse if you can talk to him or her.

Joining a Support Group

A good outlet for connecting with teens that are going through the same thing that you are is a support group. Some groups meet in person; others meet online. Some groups go out and do activities together. At first this may not sound like something you want to do. Other teens have thought the same thing - until they went to a meeting. They were surprised that so many other kids felt the same way they did and had advice that really seems to work. Your parents or another trusted adult can help you find a support group.