Parents of Children with Cancer May Need Psychological Support as Well as Their Child

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New Brunswick, N.J., February 1, 2022 – Having a child diagnosed with cancer is a life-changing event. Childhood cancer not only impacts children undergoing treatment, it can also cause significant psychological distress for their parents or caregivers. Karen Long-Traynor, PhD, clinical psychologist in the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, whose current research focuses on psychological support for parents during their child’s treatment and through survivorship, shares more on the impact of childhood cancer on parents and ways to cope.  

Emotional Challenges from Diagnosis to Survivorship

Parents of children with cancer experience stress as they navigate and manage their child’s illness. Not only can being a parent to a child with cancer cause emotional challenges, it may also cause disruptions in daily routines and family life, including changing caregiver or spousal roles, financial strain as well as difficulty with transitioning back to life as it was before the diagnosis, and dealing with fears related to the child’s cancer.

Learn About Your Child's Disease

Knowledge is power. Learning about your child’s cancer can help parents and family better understand the disease and what to expect in the future. Parents should not be afraid to ask questions. They should work with their child’s cancer care team to help learn about cancer, how it will be treated, prepare for tests, manage side effects and how to cope.

Ask for Community, Family and Professional Support

If parents are having a hard time managing emotions, it is important to reach out about their feelings. They should not be afraid to ask their health care team, family, friends and other support persons for help when needed. Researchers are currently exploring the feasibility and helpfulness of a parent to parent mentoring program in which a parent of a childhood cancer survivors provides support and guidance to a parent with a newly diagnosed child.

Care for Yourself.

It can be easy for parents to forget about their own needs when taking care of a child with cancer. It’s important for parents to take care of their own physical and emotional needs. Find time to practice self-care, even in small ways such as taking a walk or talking with a friend.

The Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, the state’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, together with RWJBarnabas Health provides help from specialists who tend to all aspects of care for the patient and family, including emotional support.



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