by Cassandra-CanTeen18/02/2019

Connecting as a family when cancer comes along

Around half of the young people affected by cancer who access support at CanTeen tell us that they would like more time out from dealing with the impact of cancer and more opportunities to have fun. As CanTeen’s Senior Counsellor, this doesn’t surprise me. When cancer comes into the life of a family, so much is disrupted. Often things become very hushed and serious, the focus of family life is shifted, and everyone feels it. Counselling and individual support have a role to play in helping people cope, but so does embracing fun and spending time connecting as a family. If you’re stuck for ideas, read on…

If people in your family are generally well, and have a bit more energy, why not try out something active? Depending on where you live, paintball, laser tag, or some old school ten-pin bowling might be just the treat for a family day out. If you’re by the water, fishing, swimming or kayaking, followed by a picnic by the water balances activity and rest quite well. Prefer to engage your brain? What about learning a language together? There are many free resources available through Youtube, Podcasts, your local library or apps like Duolingo. Maybe you even have a family member or friend that could teach you!

If energy needs to be conserved, there are plenty of less active options to consider. Services like Amazon’s Audible will give you access to a library of audiobooks that you can listen to together while resting indoors or outdoors. Similarly, starting a Netflix series together can be a great way to bond over twists and tense plot points, or even learn about something new you can put into practice at home. Marie Kondo’s viral Tidying Up series will likely be appreciated by most parents! If you’re all running a bit low on emotional energy too, inviting your children to spend time in the same room, while doing separate activities, can still foster a sense of togetherness.

Board games are a great option too! There are so many different ones, and not all are competitive like Monopoly. There are great cooperative games where you are all working together to achieve a winning outcome like the Japanese-inspired Hanabi. Other family-friendly choices include Carcasonne, Azul or a puzzle. Even something as simple as eating dinner together at the table (if this habit has slipped) can restore a mindful moment in the whirlwind of days. When it is time to get out of the house, going for a simple drive or finding somewhere in nature to take a rest can be very relaxing.

If the cancer can’t be cured, you may wish to engage in some meaning making activities. These include looking through family photo albums together, sharing favorite music, movies or books, teaching a family recipe or finding a special spot (coffee shop, beach, football field etc.) where loved ones can return to feel connected to someone who has died. A more detailed project could be starting an account as a family and passing on your history, culture and stories as you construct a family tree going as far back as you can manage.

Hopefully this blog has given you a starting place for thinking about how to put some time aside to connect as a family.

Cassandra Taylor, CanTeen Senior Counsellor