Coping with a children's cancer diagnosis

Couple holding hands in doctor's office

Hearing that your child has cancer is devastating news for any parent. It’s likely you’ll be overwhelmed with all kinds of emotions. 

It can be hard to deal with your emotions with so much else going on – trying to understand the medical information, make practical arrangements and support your child and other family members. Our booklet, Children and Young People with Cancer: A Guide for Parents has more about how you might feel and ways to cope:

Children and young people with cancer booklet
Children and Young People with Cancer – A Guide for Parents
This booklet is written for parents whose child has been diagnosed with cancer.

Although many children with cancer can be cured, it is still devastating to hear that your child has cancer. 

Understanding medical information 

When you have recovered from the shock of the diagnosis, you will probably have a lot of questions about the diagnosis and what will happen next. 

Many parents find it useful to write out a list of their questions at home to bring with them to the hospital. Staff will do their best to answer them honestly but remember not all questions can be answered straight away.

You can also talk to one of our cancer nurses. Call into a Daffodil Centre or ring the Support Line on 1800 200 700. Or email:

Taking care of yourself

Obviously you will be very focused on your child’s wellbeing. You may feel like your feelings are not important, but you need support too. Shock, anxiety, grief, anger and all the other emotions you might feel can affect your emotional and physical health.

For example you may find it hard to eat or sleep, be overwhelmed by panic or anxiety, feel that you can’t cope or have no energy. Be sure to turn to your GP for help if this happens.

Read more about taking care of yourself.

It’s important to remember that there’s lots of help and support for you and your family – both practical support and emotional support.

Get support - Who can help us?

Your hospital team

Unanswered questions or worries about your child’s health or treatment can make you or your child feel very anxious, so don’t be afraid to ask for help or more information from your medical team. 

Remember that the team caring for your child includes more than nurses and doctors – there are lot of other people who can help you. For example: 

  • Medical social workers can provide counselling, advise you on how to talk to your child and other people about cancer, help with practical problems and give advice on entitlements and support services. 
  • Child psychologists can support your child and other family members to adjust and cope with a cancer diagnosis and the impact of treatment. They can help your family address issues that may arise in relation to your child’s behaviour, emotional coping and schooling. 
  • Dietitians can advise you about any eating problems your child is having and how to help them have a healthy, balanced diet. Maintaining a healthy weight is very important during cancer treatment.
  • Play specialists use play to help children prepare for treatment and try to make your child’s experience of hospital as normal as possible.
  • Complementary therapists can provide therapies such as reflexology, relaxation, aromatherapy, head massage, deep breathing and mindfulness for you and your child. They can help ease some of the stress and symptoms caused by a cancer diagnosis and its treatment.

Local medical support

Your specialist nurse will contact your GP, local hospital and public health nurse and tell them about your child’s diagnosis and treatment plan. These local support services are important as some of your child’s care might take place closer to home

Support services

There are a number of cancer charities and support services for children and teens with cancer, and their families. They offer services like:

  • Help with transport and accommodation
  • Cancer information
  • Counselling
  • Financial support
  • Medical equipment 
  • Weekend breaks
  • Complementary therapies
  • Play therapy
  • Social events and outings
  • Parent support meetings
  • Children and teen workshops
  • Respite
  • Support at home
  • Support for brothers and sisters

See a list of children’s cancer support services.

Speak to a Cancer Nurse

You can talk to one of our cancer nurses if you need information or support. Call our Support Line on Freephone 1800 200 700. You can also talk face to face with a nurse at one of our Daffodil Centres.

Roz, a cancer nurse

For more information

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1800 200 700

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