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Knowing how to help a family whose child is affected by cancer isn’t always easy. During such a difficult time, it can be hard to know what to say or do. Concern over saying or doing the wrong thing can result in not providing the help families want and need.
Families often feel isolated during treatment. Love and support are more important than ever. Communicate regularly via phone, email or text. The message can be simple:
Mark your calendar as a reminder to reach out. Continue to let the family know you are thinking of them. There is usually an outpouring of support at the beginning. But as lives get busy, support tapers off. Remembering each family member and offering encouragement is important throughout the entire cancer journey.
Asking a family how you can help may be too broad. People often say, "Let me know if there is anything that you need." However, this can be overwhelming for families and hard to coordinate. It may be easier to offer to take care of immediate needs.
Specific ways to help may include:
Every situation is different, but it is important to support emotional well-being of the child and family.
Even if you have a family member who had a similar cancer, your experiences may be different. However, sharing what helped you through your own challenges may be helpful. If you do have advice, offer to share before actually doing so. It may be helpful to connect your friend with someone who might understand what they’re going through. For example: “My friend’s child went through something that sounds very similar. Here is his contact information if you want to someone to talk to. Don’t feel like there’s any pressure. Only if you feel comfortable.” Be sensitive, and remember that each family's journey and needs are different.
Reviewed: June 2018