Caring for yourself when your child has cancer

PDF download is not available for Arabic and Urdu languages at this time. Please use the browser print function instead

In order to help the people you love, and meet life’s many obligations, you need to take care of yourself. Ignoring your needs can make you become more irritable, negative, short-tempered or resentful.

Key points

  • It is important to understand your limits and when you may be feeling stressed or overwhelmed.
  • When you are feeling stressed, take time for yourself, even if it is just a few minutes.
  • Try to get enough sleep, eat well and exercise, so that you are do not burn yourself out.

Now that you know some of the signs of depression and anxiety, it can help to practice recognizing when you are stressed and finding ways to deal with that stress in various situations.

Take time for yourself

While cancer is probably at the forefront of your thoughts, try not to let the illness completely consume you and your family. Take time for yourself; do things you enjoy; and even learn some relaxation techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation or imagery. You can find other techniques to manage stress in the teen sessions called "Managing stress and emotions" and "Relaxation and distraction". Parents often say that they feel selfish, self-indulgent or guilty when they do things for themselves. Your health is important because you are important. Your health is also important because it allows you to better support your child with cancer.

Know your limits and invest in your health

Let others in your family, including your ill child, know what your limits are. If you become run down, you will be less helpful to your child and to your family when they need you. Make it a priority to eat healthily and be active. Movement is healthy for our bodies. For example, taking 10 minutes to walk around the hospital between treatments or taking the stairs instead of the elevator can be very beneficial. Get some sleep. Pace yourself. Treatment for cancer can be long and you’ll need stamina. You’ll need to be there for the long haul, rather than burn yourself out in the short term. For information about maintaining a healthy lifestyle, read through teen session called "Your lifestyle".

It's OK to have fun

Identify and believe in your strengths. It can be hard on those tough days, but remind yourself that you will do it and that you are doing it. Many parents surprise themselves by discovering strength and stamina they didn’t know they had.

Many parents find that there is still space for joy, fun and pleasure. At times, this may feel impossible for you. At the very least, consider what you might be able to do to be uplifted. The reality of life is that each day is what we make of it. It’s still OK to be happy and to laugh or joke sometimes, even when life feels terribly difficult. You may be surprised at how you and your child are still able to enjoy some moments together through the treatment.

Last updated: September 3rd 2019