If you have just found out that your child has cancer, you are probably feeling shock and disbelief. The news can be very difficult to come to terms with, and you may be struggling to understand what the future holds for your child and how this will affect the rest of your family. The decisions ahead may seem very frightening. You may feel numb and not believe what is happening. These painful emotions of anger, sadness, guilt, fear and denial are all common and normal feelings for parents who have been told their child has cancer.
Focus on what needs to be done
It might seem hard to believe at first, but most parents get through these initial reactions and emotions by focusing on what needs to be done to help support their child and family through this time. You know your child better than anyone, including how they cope in unfamiliar situations; what makes them fearful, sad and happy; and how to help them relax during stressful moments. If you are calm, loving, present and reassuring, this will help your child immensely to cope with the treatment.
Your child's feelings and fears
It is also important to allow your child the opportunity to have fears and to grieve. They need to feel that they can approach you whenever they want to discuss what they’re going through. Being honest with each other about fears and feelings can be very positive for your child’s wellbeing and ability to cope, as well as your own.
There is no right or wrong way to feel
Importantly, there is no right or wrong way to feel. Most parents find that their emotions go up and down over the course of a child’s treatment. Some days you might feel you are coping, and other days you might feel completely lost or out of control. Some people refer to this as an ‘emotional roller-coaster’. It is important to admit these feelings to those around you, including your family, other supporters and your child’s treatment team. These changes in how you feel may coincide with stages in your child’s cancer journey (such as diagnosis, before treatment starts, during treatment and after treatment).
More information to help guide you through your feelings and the key tasks at each stage of your child's diagnosis and treatment
The Paediatric Integrated Cancer Service has information on how you might feel, and the key tasks at each stage in your child’s diagnosis and treatment.
See also Being aware of mental health issues.