Resources to help you and your children when you have cancer

Cancer is a difficult topic to talk about. It is not easy to decide what or when to tell children about a cancer diagnosis.

There are many organisations and resources to support you and your children. These can:

  • provide emotional support for you and your children
  • help you to explain cancer and treatment to your children and help your children understand
  • provide toys, flash cards and kits to help you talk to your children

Support for you

General cancer organisations

If you would like to talk to someone, you can phone the Cancer Research UK nurses.

Talk to the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday

There are many cancer support groups for people with cancer. They are a way of people coming together to share their experiences. You can offer and receive support from other group members. It may help you to find out from other parents how they have coped and talked to their children. 

Ask your doctor or nurse about support groups in your area. Or find out about the different organisations and what they can offer.

CancerChat forum

You can share your experiences online by visiting CancerChat, our online forum. 

Winston's Wish

This UK based organisation provides support for children who have lost a parent. 

Helpline : 08088 020 021

Booklets

There are booklets with some useful information about talking to children. Examples include:

  • Talking to children when an adult has cancer
  • Talking to children about cancer

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) in America has a booklet for teenagers called 'When your parent has cancer - a guide for teens'. This gives tips and ideas on how to talk about cancer and how it may affect the family. 

An Australian charity called Canteen has a section for young people who have a parent with cancer. They have a guide for parents of teenagers.

Books for younger children

Stories in picture book format can be a useful way to talk about feelings with younger children. 

The Huge Bag of Worries

by V Ironside and F Rodgers
Hodder Children's Books, 2011
ISBN: ‎ 978-0340903179

This picture book follows the daily life of a young girl who worries about everything. It aims to help children cope with their worries and anxieties.

Mummy's lump

by Gillian Forrest & Sarah Garson
Breast Cancer Now

This is a simple story about a mum diagnosed with breast cancer.

Arthur: When someone you know has cancer

An Activity booklet for families
by Livestrong

A story about the new cook at school who has cancer. Lots of discussion points and helpful resources in starting those discussions.

Lucy and the Good Soldier

by Anthony Nolan

A picture book about a Dad who has leukaemia and is waiting for a stem cell transplant.

Kelsey and the Yellow Kite

by Myeloma UK

A story about a Dad having treatment for myeloma, having a bone marrow transplant and feeling afraid.

Books for older children

Books written for younger children might also help older children as they are more easy to understand.

The secret C

by J A Stokes
Winston's Wish 2nd edition, 2009
ISBN: ‎978-0955953927

This picture book aims to help parents explain what cancer means. It also describes the different treatments and how these might affect the family. It is aimed at children aged between 7 and 10 years.

A monster calls

by P Ness
Walker Books, 2015
ISBN: 978-1406361803

This book is for older children. It is about a 13 year old boy whose mum is dying of cancer and deals with the very difficult emotion of guilt.  This book is often read in school during year 7, and sometimes year 6.

Online support

Remember to take care when children are using the web. You are responsible for checking that the material your own child accesses is suitable for them. We have looked at these sites before putting this information up. But we have not checked all the material on these sites and things can change over time.

Hope Support Services

Hope is a UK charity. It supports children and young people when a close family member has a serious illness, such as cancer. 

Hope provides a free, safe online service for those aged 11-25. Hope Online includes a peer support community. Young people can share experiences and ways to cope. 

Email: help@hopesupportservices.org.uk

Tel: 01989 566317

Canteen

This is an Australian charity for young people affected by cancer. It has a section for young people who have a parent with cancer. It contains lots of information and tips about coping. 

Riprap

Riprap is a UK website designed to offer support to teenagers of all ages who have a parent affected by cancer. They have an email information service, an online forum and information about local support.

Other organisations

Fruitfly collective

This organisation provides resources for children who have a parent with cancer. The resources aim to help children understand about cancer and treatment. They include kits, books and other practical tools.

Little c club

The Little c club was set up by 2 young mums with secondary cancer. They produce flash cards. These offer activities to help support parents explain their cancer diagnosis.

The Osborne trust

This organisation provides practical and emotional support. It is for children and young people when their parent has cancer treatment. 

Shine cancer support

Shine is a UK charity that support adults in their 20s, 30s and 40s who have cancer. Many of these people are parents The website provides some information about parenting when you have cancer. 

Last reviewed: 
20 Apr 2022
Next review due: 
22 Apr 2025

Page Credits

This page has been written, reviewed and updated by Cancer Research UK’s Patient Information Web Team. Thanks to the expert professionals and people affected by cancer who have helped to review this information.

Thanks to:

Dr Caroline Leek BSc MSc PhD FRSA
Director and Founder of the Fruitfly Collective

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