How your cancer diagnosis affects your parents

All families, and the relationships within them, are unique. We recognise that some young people may not always be close with their parents or carers, and you may want to focus on other relationships instead. For many parents/carers though, your diagnosis will be a shockwave in their lives.

How it affects them

Many parents and carers talk about the shock and devastation when their child is diagnosed, which can lead them to feel protective towards you. This could be a comfort or it might feel stifling, especially if you’re used to being independent.

So it’s important to make them aware of how you feel. By calmly and clearly explaining what it is you’d like, it’s possible to establish boundaries and minimise the chance of issues coming between you. 

"The diagnosis had a huge effect on my mum. I wanted to push ahead with the treatment and mum found that hard because she really wanted to help me."

Feeling guilty

Many young people will need their parents to care for them through treatment, such as providing money and a place to live, even if they’ve left home or were about to do so. This can feel like a backwards step and result in feelings of guilt about any practical, financial and emotional issues.

If you feel this way, try talking with your parents. It’s very likely they’ll want you to concentrate on getting better, rather than worrying about things. 

How do I talk honestly without upsetting them?

Talking about your cancer can be very emotional for everyone and yes, they might become upset. But usually the people closest to you will prefer that you are honest with them about how you feel. Even if it’s difficult, it’s better to get everything out in the open.

A good way to bring up serious or emotional topics with your parents is to do it in a calm environment while you’re focused on another task, like preparing some food or travelling in the car. This could help you to ease into the conversation and make it feel less intense. 

"It’s ok and normal to cry when talking to people about it. It helps them understand that it was difficult to tell them and that they are very important to you."

What support is there for my parents?

Whatever questions or concerns your parents have, they can always talk to a member of your care team for help.

They can also look through our guidance about the ways cancer can affect a family or our comprehensive information about benefits and how to save money

Where next?

Updated February 2018, next review due February 2019.