Adolescents’ Perspectives of Living With a Parent’s Cancer: A Unique and Personal Experience

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Abstract

Background:

By the age of 21 years, 1 in 15 children will have had a parent with a diagnosis of cancer. A parent’s cancer affects the whole family. Adolescent children of cancer patients seek information about their parents’ condition and support in reciprocal relations.

Objective:

The aims of this study were to explore adolescents’ views on support and information when a parent has cancer and to describe the impact a parent’s illness has on adolescents’ everyday lives.

Interventions/Methods:

Interviews with 11 participants, conducted individually or in a focus group, were processed using qualitative content analysis.

Results:

Participants gained understanding about their parent’s illness mainly through their experience. They looked for support primarily in their own social circles and often found their needs met. Sometimes a fear of appearing vulnerable stood in the way of asking for support and left the adolescents feeling alone.

Conclusions:

Participants dealt with the situation in ways that reflected their adolescence. They were connected to their parents emotionally, but strived for independence. The adolescents shared an ideal of handling difficulties on their own and looking after the people who were important to them.

Implications for Practice:

Making parents feel more secure in supporting their adolescent child is important. The task of balancing respect for the adolescent’s integrity and providing them an opportunity to let their guard down requires trust. Inviting the adolescents to the hospital gives them a chance to learn what is happening there and to get to know healthcare personnel who may be able to help them.

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