Living with children's cancer

For grandparents, other relatives and friends

Feelings and fears

When you receive news that your grandchild, a close family relative or a friend’s child has cancer, you may feel shocked and devastated. The news can be very hard to accept. You may have many questions. What does the future hold? How will this affect you and the rest of your family, or their family? You might feel numb and not believe what is happening. These painful emotions of anger, sadness, guilt, fear and denial are all common. It’s normal for relatives and friends of a child with cancer to feel this way. 

Redkite has information and a range of resources available to grandparents of children affected by cancer. Families can request a free copy of A guide for grandparents of children with cancer, or they can access the eBook online.

Talk to people and stay up to date

Family relationships may feel like they change after a cancer diagnosis. This might leave you feeling concerned. For family members, your role in the family might change quite a lot, and you might feel lost or upset. If you feel like this, make sure you let people know so that they understand what’s happening. They can give you up-to-date and accurate information about the child and the family. If you’d like to visit the child in the hospital, let their family know. It may or may not be possible.

Some families find it helpful to ‘nominate’ someone to give regular updates. This could be you, or another close friend or relative. This helps to take the pressure off the parents. Social media, blogs, emails can be very useful. Find out how who is doing what, to make sure you receive the updates.

What can you do to help?

Sometimes it can be hard to know how to help someone when their child has been diagnosed with cancer. You might not know what to say or feel that you’re getting in the way. Don’t be surprised if your offers of help are initially knocked back. There are some things that the parents of a child with cancer want and need to do for themselves. However, there will be many other things they will welcome from you. Offering something specific is better than saying, ‘If there’s anything I can do...’ Don’t wait for them to call you – call them.

The Paediatric Integrated Cancer Service has a good list of suggestions about the type of help you could offer. Cancer Council has created a list of some simple ways you can help someone affected by cancer or their carer.