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Friendships After Cancer: Tips for Teens

Friendships are an important part of life during your teen years. Many teens feel uncertain about how to handle certain social situations after cancer treatment. Here are some tips to help you with this transition.  

Be honest about your emotions

It’s OK to feel excited and nervous about seeing your friends again. Many teens wonder:

  • Will my friends want to hang out with me?
  • Will I be able to do the same things I used to do with my friends?
  • Will I still be able to relate to my friends?

Talk to a trusted friend or adult if you have concerns.

Two teen boys smiling and wearing backpacks

It’s normal to feel nervous about seeing friends again after cancer. Take time to reach out to friends who are important to you.

Decide how much to share

Consider how much information about your diagnosis and treatment you want to share at first. Think about who you want to share it with and when you might want to share it. This may change over time. That’s OK. 

Prepare for questions

Prepare how you want to respond to questions about your diagnosis and treatment. You might be OK talking about some topics and not others. Someone might ask a question that makes you feel uncomfortable. Think about answering in a way that sets clear boundaries while also remaining respectful.

A response might be: “Thanks for asking, but I don’t really want to talk about that stuff right now.” Then follow up with a redirected question: “How was your weekend? Did you do anything fun?”

Focus on important friendships

Some friendships may have changed during treatment. Think about which friends have remained important to you and find ways to reconnect.   

Think about activities you might enjoy with friends

Some activities you took part in before treatment may be harder now or might not be possible. If you still want to take part in those activities, ask about options.

For example: If you want to be on the swim team, talk to the coach about ways you can take part in practices while you rebuild your strength.

Be smart about social media

While social media can be a great way to stay connected, some teens find it overwhelming. It is OK to not be on social media. Whether you choose to be on social media or not, neither choice is right or wrong. Do what feels best for you. If you choose to be on social media, think about:

  • How much time you want to spend on it 
  • Which apps you want to be on
  • What, if anything, you want to share

Consider dating when you are ready

Dating may look or feel different after cancer treatment. Relationships can be a great source of support. They can also be stressful at times. Think about whether you feel comfortable dating right now. Identify your ground rules for expressing affection. 

Give yourself time to adjust to physical changes

Many teens have changes in the way they look during and after cancer treatment. Give yourself time to adjust. 

Reviewed: January 2024