How to help your adult child through their cancer

Today we are very pleased to introduce a new contributor here on Happy Magazine. Clare Reed is a CBT Cancer Therapist and also a Triple Negative Breast Cancer Survivor. Clare is going to be joining us here on the website regularly with articles on CBT and cancer and we are so delighted to have her. We know her top tips are going to be very helpful for all of us.

In her first article here, Clare presents her Top 10 Tips for helping your adult child get through their cancer.

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.

Tip 1 – 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.

Tip 2 – Don’t expect instant updates

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.

Tip 3 – 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.

Tip 4 – Let them know they are always in your thoughts

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.

Tip 5 – Give practical help where you can

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.

Tip 6 – Don’t overload them with research you have found

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.

Tip 7 – Don’t draw comparisons with other relative’s 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.

Tip 8 – 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.

Tip 9 – Get some respite if you need to

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.

Tip 10 – 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. You don’t need to have such a despairing mindset. I can help you with powerful CBT tools and techniques that I have used with many other parents in your shoes to great effect. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to book a free 20min call with me on Skype for a pre-therapy chat on how I can help you.

For more information about Clare or to book a Skype Session with her, visit her website CBT for Cancer here. Clare offers tailor-made CBT for Cancer Therapy Programmes depending on whether you are at a pre-diagnosis stageduring treatment stage, or if you are post cancer. She also offers a Programme for family and friends of someone going through cancer if there is someone in your life who you think might benefit. 

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