by CanTeen07/12/2018

How to Keep Normal Family Routines Going When Your Child Has Cancer

Your child's cancer and cancer treatment will cause disruptions and changes to your family’s routines. Having cancer treatment will disrupt your child’s routines and activities, and will also impact on their siblings.  

One thing that helps children with cancer, their siblings, and other family members cope is having as many things as possible kept ‘normal’.   

Keep things as normal as possible 

After cancer your child will have to create a ‘new normal’ – but for now, focus on maintaining routines as much as possible to give them some security. 

Tell your child how their day-to-day routines are going to be affected. Children, especially younger ones, like routine and it helps them feel secure. So prepare them for any changes in advance if you can. 

Tell your other children (siblings of the child with cancer) it’s okay to go about their life as usual - to see their friends, play sport, do after-school activities and have fun. Some young people feel guilty about having fun when their sister/brother is sick. Keeping up their sport or hobbies or time with friends means they have some ‘time out’ away from the cancer and boosts their self-esteem. 

 Make sure they know: 

  • who will be looking after them if you’re not at home and that they will never be alone 
  • who will pick them up from school or take them to their sport training or music lesson 
  • any other changes to their usual routine.  

Sometimes plans change suddenly, especially when your child is having treatment, so also explain to their siblings that sometimes they will need to go with the flow.  

As well as less of your time and attention, your children may have less time to spend on their interests or with people outside the family due to increased responsibilities such as household chores or looking after younger siblings. Encourage and help them to keep up their social life and activities they enjoy.  

How to maintain normal routines 

Keeping family life as normal and stable as possible reduces the amount of change your child has to cope with. Some tips for trying to maintain ‘normal’: 

For your child with cancer 

  • Ensure that your child continues going to school (or continues their tertiary education or work) when they can, and help them make a plan to keep up with their schoolwork or tertiary study so they can return after their treatment ends. 
  • Encourage them to tell their friends and classmates or workmates about their diagnosis, and stay in touch with them. You can help arrange for friends to visit your child in hospital, or get one of their siblings or friends to help you organise a ‘welcome home’ party. 
  • Help them to continue their usual life as much as is possible – to see friends, play sport and do after-school activities. And when things change, e.g. they can’t play sport for a while, suggest alternative interests or hobbies they can explore. 

For your other child/ren (whose brother/sister has cancer) 

  • Ensure that your child continues going to school (or continues their tertiary education or work) when they can 
  • Accept or ask for help from others so your child can continue their after-school or weekend activities like sport or music. 

If there are just too many activities to juggle talk to your child about putting one on hold for a while, but try to keep up most of their normal schedule so they get ‘time out’ from their brother’s or sister’s cancer.  

See How to ask for help. 

  • Preserve family time 

If you can, try to set aside time for the whole family as well as for each of your children. 

  • Maintain normal family rules.  

Key things to remember 

Keeping routines as normal as possible doesn’t mean pushing yourself to make sure nothing changes. Often parents feel guilty about the impact of their cancer on their children and push themselves to keep doing everything. But there may be times you just can’t.  

Your family will adjust to any changes to routines – it may just take a little time.


More advice/support 


Useful sites/resources