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Together is a new resource for anyone affected by pediatric cancer - patients and their parents, family members, and friends.

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Support Networks for Parents

When your child has cancer, no one understands your life better than another parent going through the same experience.

Connecting with other parents of children with cancer can be one of the best ways to deal with the emotional, physical, and spiritual challenges that can happen with a child’s cancer diagnosis. Parents often feel isolated and helpless.

All of a sudden, parents must learn a new language of cancer, change daily routines, and make critical decisions they never imagined. People who haven’t gone through the same situation really don’t know how parents feel, even though they may mean well.

“Other people might not understand our struggles,” said Heather, mom of Andrew. “Some people I thought would be there were not, even family members. But the people in my support group are there. Even though they’re going through the same thing, they have enough heart left over to extend love and understanding.”

Joining a support group and/or parent-to-parent mentor program can be worthwhile ways to connect with other parents.

Support group – A support group may meet in person or online. Some groups are led by a health professional. Others may be facilitated by a parent.

Parent-to-parent mentor program – This type of program typically pairs parents of recently diagnosed patients with more experienced parents. They typically meet one-on-one.

Parents can:

  • Talk about their feelings
  • Listen and learn from each other
  • Share advice
  • Get new ideas about how to deal with certain situations
  • Find resources and information

For Christine, mom of Catie, the opportunity to share and listen was priceless.

Benefits of Connecting with Other Parents

  • Talking with peers can be a form of therapy that can improve a person’s quality of life.
  • Parents can feel a part of a community and get tips and advice from more experienced mothers and fathers.
  • Parents can openly share emotions and struggles without making others who may not understand feel uncomfortable.
  • Being in a community can lessen stress, depression, and anxiety.

How to Find a Program

Parents may find support groups and mentor programs in different ways:

  • Ask other parents – Most parents are happy to help others find resources. Don’t be afraid to ask people you meet waiting for appointments and procedures.
  • Ask the care team – The hospital may have support groups and mentor programs on site. Social workers, psychologists, and/or chaplains may have names and contact information about groups in the community.
  • Online support groups and mentor programs – Certain cancer-related organizations may sponsor parent groups. It’s best to find one sponsored by a reputable organization. People knowledgeable about cancer should oversee the site to ensure the quality of information and security of the site. Reputable sites include:
  • Social media – Social media such as Facebook have groups for parents of childhood cancer patients, but only participate if it is moderated by someone responsible. Without a dedicated gatekeeper, people can share inaccurate information or post inappropriate content. Avoid groups that are overly negative.
  • Local nonprofits -- Some communities have local organizations focused on cancer or children’s health issues that have their own programs.

Support groups and mentor programs can help parents draw strength as they face childhood cancer together.


Reviewed: June 2018