A cancer diagnosis in the family is often unexpected and may result in emotional changes, questions, and unexpected discoveries in teens. Every year around 0.3% of minors and 8.4% of young adults have a parent who has been diagnosed with cancer. Since parental cancer impacts the whole family, some common emotions that are experienced by teens are fear, anger, feelings of neglect, loneliness, embarrassment and guilt, according to the National Cancer Institute.
It is common for some teens to initially react by keeping to themselves and putting on a brave face. Here are ways that you can support a teen who has been impacted by cancer:
● Work at Their Own Pace: Let your teen know that you are available and present in their lives, but don’t try and force them to open up right away. Teens want to lead independent lives so relying on other people for help with certain things can take some adjusting. Pushing a teen to open up before they are ready may cause him/her to further retreat from others.
● Encourage Creativity: Keeping a journal, drawing, painting, and taking up new hobbies, such as photography, are all activities that can help teens cope. Having a creative outlet has a positive impact on mental health overall.
● Help Expand Their Network: When your teen is ready, sharing his/her experience can be therapeutic and comforting, as well as inspirational to others who are in similar situations. Research local support group options for your teen, so that they can socialize with people their own age while taking part in a discussion facilitated by an experienced licensed mental health professional. Gilda’s Club Westchester offers a support group called Teens Connect, that meets on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month from 5:00-6:00 via Zoom.
Do you know a teen impacted by cancer? Gilda’s Club Westchester is currently accepting submissions for the 2021 Teen Cancer Story contest. Local teens, ages 13-17 who have been impacted by cancer, are invited to share their experience with cancer through their essays, poetry, artwork, or video submissions. Cash prizes of $250 will be awarded to first place winners and runner-ups will also be recognized. For more information regarding the contest guidelines, or to submit an entry, visit https://gildasclubwestchester.org/teen-cancer-story/ or contact Jaime Aker at email@example.com.