How to Help Your Adult Child Through Their Cancer
Updated: Oct 13, 2018
In ‘How to Help Your Adult Child though their Cancer’ I am going to present my top 10 Tips on getting through this difficult time for you and your adult ‘child’.
Hearing your adult child tell you they have Cancer is a very traumatic event for most parents. It’s not far off from them hearing that their child is dying. For most parents the fear of their child dying or being killed before they themselves die is, ‘Just not right’, ‘Not in the natural order of things’, ‘If anyone should get Cancer it should be me’. These are some of the thoughts I have heard many parents make to me in their CBT sessions over the years. Normally, parents in this situation come to me looking for help with high anxiety and insomnia. I never under appreciate how much stress and despair you, as a parent, go through with such news from your child.
I am a CBT therapist and after a decade of working with clients in many challenging life situations, including Cancer, my empathy levels are sky high. Unfortunately, your adult children may not appreciate how much stress this is going to cause you and they would probably be shocked if they could hear some of the negative scary thoughts you have in your head right now about them.
I am going to help you navigate this time with some quick easy to use and implement tips.
Top 10 Tips to Helping Your Adult Child Through Their Cancer
Let your adult children be adults. If they are of an age where they have been independent and on their own two feet for a good number of years they probably will want to handle the GP visits, hospital trips, scans, etc by themselves or with their life partner. Don’t ask to be brought along unless they specifically ask you to accompany them.
Don’t expect them to update you as soon as they leave a test, GP visit, Oncologist appointment, chemo infusion etc. They will have a lot to process themselves and their energy levels may be too low for communicating.
Don’t chase their partner for news. They too may not have been at the appointment or are also trying to process what is happening with their loved one. If you have a good relationship with them let them know you are thinking of them too, being a partner to someone with Cancer can be a very hard time.
Let them know you are there for them with thoughts in texts, such as ‘wishing you a good outcome today’, if they are getting test results etc. it’s nice for them to know you are thinking of them, but manage your expectations on receiving a reply.
If they require babysitting help with their own children work out a rota with them and other people they want involved with babysitting. Don’t take on more than you can handle though. Be clear on what you can realistically do and make sure to follow through.
If you have been researching their specific cancer be aware that they probably have too. If they aren’t in awe of your research findings, because ‘they know it already’, don’t feel put out. A better idea would be to ask them for a topic you can research for them that they haven’t had time to do themselves.
Don’t draw comparisons with other relatives cancer stories or friends. Each person with cancer is unique. No cancer behaves identically in different bodies. Just because Auntie Tina was out running 5km before breakfast during her chemotherapy treatment it doesn’t mean your adult child can.
Look after yourself during this time, your adult child doesn’t want to worry about your health on top of their own. Attending to your own exercise, diet and relaxation are going to be key for you being a great supporter.
If you are getting tired and low in energy try and get some respite from your adult child. This is particularly important if they are relying on you a lot for help. If there is someone else that can stand in for you for a long weekend get them involved so you can have a relaxing and self-nurturing break.
Never doubt yourself. You are a great parent but remember you can only give parenting to those who want it. If they don’t want your parenting skills at all don’t take it personally. Instead, think about what a great parent you must be to have brought up such an independent and self-sufficient child.
If you feel your own anxiety about your child is too much to deal with and you are plagued with negative thoughts, depression, panic or insomnia don’t hesitate to book an appointment with me and get some help. I can help you with powerful CBT tools and techniques that I have used with many other parents in your shoes to great effect.