Support When Your Child Has Cancer

Support When Your Child Has Cancer

If your child has had a cancer diagnosis, you and your family should know that you are not alone. Support is available.


Key points to remember

  • if your child has had a cancer diagnosis, the responses of everyone in your family can cover a wide range of emotions 
  • you and your family should know you are not alone and that support is available

What to expect following a child's cancer diagnosis

If your child has had a cancer diagnosis, the responses of everyone in your family can cover a wide range of emotions. These can vary in intensity and the length of time they last. They can also occur and recur unexpectedly.

For adults there may be any mix of feelings:

  • denial
  • anger
  • guilt
  • grief
  • fear
  • blame
  • confusion
  • worry
  • sadness
  • a sense of loss

For children and teenagers, there may also be behavioural changes.

While you're going through all of this, you and your family also needs to understand medical information, to discover how to navigate the health system and to learn the mechanics of continuing to live well with your child's illness.

Your family may also notice the effects of:

  • caring for your child having cancer treatment which may continue for any time from 4 months to 3 years
  • the effort of continuing work commitments and household and family activities while caring for your sick child
  • the demands of caring for other children in your family in the new situation which may be puzzling for them
  • the impact on inter-family relationships and relationships with friends

You and your family should know you are not alone and that support is available.

Social worker

A child's cancer diagnosis can be physically and emotionally taxing for you and the whole family. You may find yourselves in situations ranging from turmoil to crisis.

The hospital social worker can help organise emotional and practical support for you and your family. Support is available:

  • when you are in hospital with your child
  • when you are in your own home
  • within your community

How do we find the social worker at the hospital?

A social worker will be aware of you and your child's arrival in the ward at the hospital. The social worker will arrange to meet you and talk with you about the various types of support available for your family.

What kind of practical support is available?

Practical support can include help with things such as:

  • accommodation
  • travel benefits
  • parking
  • childcare
  • finance

What kind of emotional support is available?

Emotional support can include:

  • organising crisis counselling
  • making psychological assessments
  • acting as an advocate in family meetings
  • offering stress management strategies
  • making suggestions about sibling care
  • giving advice about inter-family relationships

What kind of cultural support is available?

Cultural support can include:

  • referral to the hospital Māori or Pacific Island health team if your child or family/whānau asks for cultural support 
  • suggesting referral to the hospital Māori or Pacific Island health team or community Māori health provider if this help can positively influence outcomes or help your family reach their goals more easily

What kind of spiritual support is available?

Spiritual support can include:

  • making a referral to a spiritual advisor or pastoral carer from the hospital or community
  • making a referral to the Māori health team when there is a request for karakia before a procedure

Child phychologist

It is common for support from a child psychologist to be available.

Tell your doctor at the hospital if you would like some help with behavioural changes that you notice in your child.

Community support

Child Cancer Foundation (CCF)

CCF is a national organisation which offers emotional and practical support to children with cancer and their families.

Visit the CCF website for information about support services and for the contact details of the division nearest you.


CanTeen is an organisation for 13 to 24-year-olds living with cancer, whether they are dealing with their own cancer or that of a sibling or parent. 'CanTeeners' support each other at home and in hospital. Phone: 0800 226 8336

Read about where to find more information and support

Read more about childhood cancer


All the pages in the childhood cancer section of this website have been written by health professionals who work in the field of paediatric oncology. They have been reviewed by the members of the National Child Cancer Network (NZ). Medical information is authorised by the clinical leader of the National Child Cancer Network.

This page last reviewed 27 August 2018.

Call Healthline on 0800 611 116 any time of the day or night for free health advice when you need it