Helping your child cope with a brain tumour

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Find advice to help you with the extremely difficult task of helping your child cope and adjust to a brain tumour diagnosis.

Key points

  • Before adopting any coping strategies, consider your family's value systems and communication styles.
  • There are different coping strategies you can use for your child(ren), friends, and family.

You, your child(ren), and other family members may cope differently with the impact of a brain tumour diagnosis and treatment. Try to foster an open and supportive space for expression of feelings, thoughts, and questions. While diagnosis and treatment may impact your daily lives, working to maintain some structure can help with adjustment to this experience. Keep in mind that you may also need to adopt new routines to accommodate for changes.

Coping strategies for your child

Before adopting any particular coping strategies, consider your family's value systems and communication styles. Here are some suggestions that may help your child cope:

  • Encourage your child to express their feelings in an age-appropriate way. This can help them feel understood and supported. For younger children, encourage play — drawing or role-playing with puppets/dolls — to help them process what they are going through.
  • Make your child the expert. Children can benefit from talking to others about what happened at the hospital and how they dealt with it. For example, having an IV line placed or doing an imaging test.
  • Talk to your child and prepare them for what they may experience. Create opportunities for them to ask questions. If they ask you questions that you feel unable to answer, ask your child’s treatment team for assistance.
  • Maintain structure as much as possible but be flexible as needed. For example, it may be beneficial to keep regular, daily bed-time routines; continue with behavior expectations typical for your child pre-diagnosis; etc.
  • Try to focus on things other than the brain tumour. Children can lead active and busy lives. Although your child’s activities may be affected by the treatment, try to focus on their interests and let them participate in activities when possible If your child cannot engage in physical or recreational activities anymore, think of alternate ways they can participate. When admitted, there are many activities, such as art/music therapy, games, etc., that your child can safely partake in. Your child's treatment team and/or school can work to help identify plans between settings.

Coping strategies: Including child's friends

  • Find support for your child from peers. Help your child keep in touch with friends, classmates, and siblings as much as possible through letters, e-mails, cards, and videos. You may be able to set up a website for your child that friends can check.
  • Encourage your child's friends to visit them in the hospital or at home when safe to do so.
  • Find support groups for children with similar conditions through the hospital or community organizations.

Coping strategies for your family

  • Follow the same rules at home with your child as you would before the diagnosis. For example, if you suddenly allow your ill child to engage in a behavior you would not usually permit, they will sense that something is wrong. This may create anxiety in your child and resentment in their sibling(s).
  • Don’t buy or allow your child lots of gifts. Although they may be happy briefly, getting gifts is not part of “normal” life and can create feelings of worry or unrealistic expectations. A few small gifts to reward their courage may be appropriate.

Guided meditations for parents and children

Listening to a guided meditation can be a helpful way to cope with stress and focus on your thoughts. The following meditations can be used by children, teenagers and caregivers whenever you feel overwhelmed, stressed or need to bring yourself back into the present moment.

Mental health meditations


Audio meditations

Last updated: January 10th 2022