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Most parents struggle to fit everything into their family’s schedule, even without the demands of cancer and cancer treatment. It’s important to accept that you may not have the time or energy for everything. Be realistic about what you can and cannot do. Here are some tips to help you juggle parenting and cancer treatment.

Talk to your children about your diagnosis. If you have children, make a plan to talk to them about your diagnosis. Even young children can often tell when something is wrong and will use their imagination to fill in the gaps of information. Prepare what you will say in advance and plan answers to possible questions. However, keep in mind that your children may not ask any questions when you first tell them about the diagnosis, but they may ask questions later. Encourage your children to come to you with any questions. Explain to younger children that they cannot “catch” cancer and no one did anything wrong to cause the cancer.

 For more on talking to children about cancer, use these Age-Appropriate Discussion Guidelines.

Maintain normal schedules for your child. Children crave structure in their environment. As much as possible, try to maintain a normal schedule for your child. If your child’s schedule needs to change, let your child know in advance.

Work with your co-parent. If you have a co-parent, discuss how parenting responsibilities may need to shift during your treatment. Let this person how much you appreciate his or her support. Recognize that these added responsibilities may lead to feelings of frustration. It helps to talk openly about each other’s limitations and brainstorm possible solutions.

Ask for help and accept help when offered. Friends and loved ones will likely want to help you, but they may not know how. Make a list of specific tasks you know you’ll need help with. These tasks may include picking up your children from activities, walking the dog, grocery shopping, or making meals. When someone offers to help, choose a task from your list that suits the person. For example, allow a classmate’s mother to drive your child to school each day.

Older children or teens may want to help out more too. As age appropriate, let them take on new chores such as laundry, cleaning, or babysitting younger siblings.

It may be helpful to keep a chart to organize the tasks you need help with, and some friends and family members who can help you.


Task Helper Notes
Drive children to school in the mornings Jennifer Jennifer isn't available on Fridays.
Do grocery shopping Bob Bob goes to the store on Sundays.


Keep important people in the loop. Speak to teachers, babysitters, or other people with a large role in your children’s life about your diagnosis so they can be prepared if your child brings it up or asks questions.

If your child begins to demonstrate unusual behavior such as angry outbursts, nightmares, or poor grades in school, ask your healthcare team for a recommendation for a counselor.

Take Care of Yourself. With all the demands on your time, it can be easy to overlook your own needs. Taking care of yourself should be a priority and it may become difficult for you to take care of your family the way you would like if you don’t take care of yourself first. During cancer treatment, you need plenty of time to rest and heal.

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