Supporting a Family When a Child is Diagnosed with Cancer

Supporting a Family When a Child is Diagnosed with Cancer

By Erin Rafter, Interim Director of Children & Family Programming
The Gathering Place

This month we honor and raise awareness for children and families affected by pediatric cancer. A child’s cancer diagnosis has a ripple effect and support for those affected can be very important. 

Within our communities, it’s natural to want to support a family faced with pediatric cancer. Extended family, friends, neighbors, parents and teachers from local schools and other community members want to know how to offer support. When asked, the family may not know what they need at the moment. Saying to a family or parent, “let me know if you need anything” is kind, but may not be practical. The family may need help, but don’t have the strength or courage to ask. The best approach in a situation like this is to proactively offer specific types of support. There are many acts of kindness, big and small. Here are some tips on how you can support a child and their family during this time:

Extended family: 

  • Sending a text or email to check in (phone calls can be over whelming and hard to return throughout the day)
  • Arranging for a meal service or gift card drive (gift cards can be used as needed. Sometimes meal trains can be too much, or they end up with too many leftovers)
  • Setting up a meal “train” can be helpful, but be sure to schedule based on the family’s needs and dietary challenges (this is common when a child is receiving treatment)
  • Helping with transportation and childcare, especially of siblings – focusing on special time with the siblings of a child with cancer can mean a great deal
  • Coming over to do household tasks (throw in a load of laundry, offer to clean the kitchen)
  • Taking the car for an oil change 
  • Offering to write out thank you notes that the person just needs to sign


  • Helping with yard work
  • Shoveling the driveway
  • Collecting gift card donations
  • Offering to pick up items at the store
  • Helping with childcare (offer transportation to/from school or sports events when your child is on the same team as siblings)

School support:

  • Support services for the child with cancer AND the siblings
  • Modified schoolwork 
  • Flexible due dates
  • Counseling
  • Check with students and families about what types of support they need and want
  • Referrals to community resources

Other community members:

  • Community members (organizations, restaurants, local businesses) have hosted community fundraisers and awareness campaigns
  • Co-workers of the parents and employers can offer support and flexibility during such a stressful time by modifying work schedule and workload.

When thinking about supporting a child with pediatric cancer, remember to think about the whole family. Everyone is affected by the cancer, from the child who is sick, to mom, dad and their siblings.


At The Gathering Place, a local cancer support center with locations in Beachwood and Westlake, they recognize the unique impact childhood cancer can have on the family and the communities supporting them through such a stressful time. They offer a monthly program for families (includes siblings and parents) faced with pediatric cancer, which focuses on coping with cancer while engaging in fun activities. In addition to this program, they offer individual support for parents, siblings and children with cancer, as well as individual grief support.
If you are looking for more support or know someone dealing with pediatric cancer, please connect with Erin Rafter, Interim Director of Children & Family Programming at The Gathering Place at [email protected] or 216-455-1516.
The Gathering Place’s mission is to provide a caring community that supports, educates and empowers individuals and families currently coping with the impact of cancer through programs and services provided free of charge. Located in Cleveland, Ohio, The Gathering Place reaches individuals wherever they are on their cancer journey, with services designed to complement traditional cancer care by addressing the mind, body and spirit through weekly and monthly support groups, educational lectures, healthy lifestyle classes and other events. Since its inception in 2000, the organization has helped more than 47,000 individuals coping with cancer through more than 371,000 visits. The Gathering Place is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization funded by generous donations from individuals, businesses, foundations and special events. Visit for more information or to make a donation. Like The Gathering Place on Facebook and follow The Gathering Place on Instagram and Twitter. 


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