Feeling a loss of control during cancer treatment

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Learn how you can help your teenager to feel more independent and in control while they go through cancer treatment.

Key points

  • Your teenager may feel like they have very little control over their own life and are dependent on you and others for most things.
  • Consult your teenager on decisions related to their treatment and care, and encourage them to advocate for themselves with their health-care team.

One thing many teenagers find especially difficult about having cancer is the need to be dependent on others. Some teenagers describe feeling as though their life is out of their control and like they don’t have a say in what happens. Sometimes, small changes can help your teenager regain a bit of control.

Where possible, you can support your teenager to advocate for flexible scheduling so that treatments don’t interfere with important events in their life. Having some input over treatment timing can help your teenager to feel a bit more in control of the process.

Consult your teen about decisions related to treatment and care. This can improve their willingness to comply with treatment. Sometimes, their priorities may not be the same as yours. Resist the urge to use authority unless you fear a real risk to their health. When these situations arise, communicate with your teenager. Explain your concern and try to compromise. Your teen will learn valuable skills in negotiation.

Allow your teen some control over their social life. Whenever possible, help them to make time to engage in ‘normal’ activities such as getting a driver’s license, participating in non-contact sports and going to social gatherings.

Last updated: September 3rd 2019