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How are Children Affected by Parental Cancer?

Updated: Mar 8

I was writing a tweet about the soul destroying effect hair loss has on a woman when going through grueling cancer treatment, and decided to look through my book Naked in the Wind for a quote I could use. I found one which was written by one of our support (Taxotears support group for women suffering permanent alopecia from chemotherapy) group members. Suddenly I thought 'what about the children'. What psychological harm does it have on them seeing either parent suddenly look ill, and more importantly what mental health help is out there for them?

Child with red paper heart

Maybe in older children the roles are suddenly reversed. The child suddenly becomes the carer. How on earth does a single parent family cope? Not everyone has friends or family members that can pitch in. What support is on offer?

International Journal of Cancer research & Treatment - written by Binay Shah, Jeffery Armly & Erin Swieter

Multiple studies demonstrate that children in particular have a higher risk of emotional and behavioural problems. The disruption of schedules and daily routine, shifting of household roles, financial stress and the physical and emotional availability of either parent all contributes to these emotional and behavioural problems. These problems, if overlooked or untreated, can persist into adulthood.

How do you Tell your Children?

Having to tell your children you have cancer has to be up there with one of the hardest things ever that a parent has to do! Everyone find their own way of doing this and some parents refuse to use the 'C' word, trying to shield the child or trying to make it easier for themselves. Studies have shown that to be open and honest with your child is the best way as it helps make the child feel more secure.

There's some great tips on how to broach the subject here