Getting support

Talking to children about cancer can be daunting, but you are not alone. Cancer Council can provide information and support, and can point you in the right direction for specialised assistance. This section explains when to seek professional help for a child and lists many support organisations. It includes a reading list and glossary to help you explain cancer to younger and older children.

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Listen to podcasts on Explaining Cancer to Kids and Family Dynamics and Cancer

Getting support

Many professionals and organisations can help you communicate with your children throughout your experience with cancer. You don’t need to have a specific problem to make contact with these services. You can ask for help even before breaking the news to your children. A health professional could practise the conversations with you so that you feel better prepared.

You can also ask health professionals and organisations for help if you are worried about your children’s behaviour. You may choose to see or call the professional yourself, and to use their advice to sort out the problem. Most parents, with the right advice, can support their children through difficult situations. Occasionally, a child may need to attend a consultation, and parents might be asked to come too.

When to seek professional support for your child

While it’s difficult to know if your child’s reaction is typical or something more serious, sometimes extra support can help. Some warning signs that you should see a professional are if your child:

  • has a change in their usual behaviour (e.g. aggressive or regressive behaviour) that is ongoing
  • is showing less mature ways of coping, such as wetting the bed every night for a month
  • refuses to go to school – they may say they are too sick for school, but actually have separation anxiety and think they need to stay home to look after their parent
  • has a persistent change in eating habits
  • has noticeable concentration challenges (dropping grades)
  • is spending more time online
  • talks about wanting to die or is extremely preoccupied with dying
  • is having trouble sleeping
  • acts sad and withdrawn
  • demonstrates severe behaviour, such as self-harm
  • has increased risk-taking behaviours, such as alcohol or drug use
  • is withdrawing from friends.

Teachers and other school staff can be among the first people to notice that something is worrying a young person. Because they see children every weekday for many weeks in a row, they may see a change in behaviour, concentration levels, grades, eating habits and socialising with peers. This is one of the reasons it is valuable to let the school know what is going on at home and to ask them to contact you if they have any concerns about how your child is coping.

Health professionals who can help

Professionals to see if you are concerned about your child include:

Your GP and specialists – may be able to talk to your children, or help you decide whether to consult a psychologist.

Nurses – may be the most regular contact you have with the treatment centre and are a source of information and support.

Social workers – link you to support services and help with emotional, practical or financial issues.

Psychologists and counsellors – can help you with communication and behavioural issues (visit Australian Psychological Society and scroll down to “Find a Psychologist”).

School counsellors – are trained in child development and can be a useful source of support and ideas.

Psychiatrists – will see children with more serious issues (you will need a referral from a GP if your child is treated privately).

Practical and financial help

A cancer diagnosis can affect every aspect of your life, and it often creates practical and financial issues.

There are many sources of support and information to help you, your family and carers navigate all stages of the cancer experience, including:

  • information about cancer and its treatment
  • access to benefits and programs to ease the financial impact of cancer treatment, such as help with the cost of prescription medicines, transport costs, utility bills or basic legal advice
  • home care services, such as Meals on Wheels, visiting nurses and home help
  • aids and appliances to make life easier at home
  • support groups and programs
  • counselling services.

The availability of services may vary depending on where you live, and some services will be free but others might have a cost. To find good sources of support and information, you can talk to the social worker or nurse at your hospital or treatment centre. Or you can call Cancer Council 13 11 20, or see  Cancer and your finances and  Cancer, work and you.

If you feel overwhelmed

A child’s ability to cope is often closely linked to how their parents are coping. Kids often copy their parents’ behaviour, so if Mum or Dad is depressed and anxious, they are more likely to be too. It is important to seek support if you feel overwhelmed.

  • Ask family and friends for help. Let them know what you need – they will probably be relieved that you can give them something to do.
  • Get practical assistance and information from Cancer Council and other organisations to help ease your worries.
  • Use complementary therapies, such as massage, hypnotherapy or relaxation techniques to manage stress.
  • Contact CanTeen, Camp Quality or Redkite about programs that may help you and your children cope with cancer. Lifeline and Kids Helpline both provide 24-hour telephone counselling. Go here for a list of support services.

Click on the icon below to download a PDF booklet on talking to kids about cancer

Printed copies are available for free - Call 13 11 20 to order

Instructions for downloading and reading EPUB files

Apple devices

The iBooks application must be installed on your Apple device before you can read the EPUB.
Different ways to download an EPUB file to your Apple device:

  • email EPUB files to yourself and transfer the attachment to iBooks.
  • copy EPUB files into DropBox (or a similar service) and use the DropBox app to send them to iBooks.
  • open EPUB files directly from Mobile Safari and open them in iBooks, where they are saved automatically by downloading the EPUB from the website.

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To download an EPUB file to your Kobo from a Windows computer:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • select “Open folder to view files” to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

To download an EPUB to your Kobo from a Mac:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • open your “Finder” application.
  • select “Kobo eReader” from the listed devices to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, probably in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

Turn on your Kobo and your EPUB will be located in “eBooks”, while a PDF will be located in “Documents”.
Need more information? Visit:

Sony Reader

To download an EPUB file on your Sony Reader™:

  • ensure you have already installed the Reader™ Library for PC/Mac software
  • select the eBook you want from our website and click the link to download it.
  • connect the Reader™ to your computer.
  • open the Reader™ Library software and click “Library” in the left-hand pane and select the eBook to view it.

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Amazon Kindle 2nd Generation devices

EPUB files can’t be read on the Amazon Kindle™. However, like most eReaders, Kindle™ 2nd Generation devices are able to display PDFs. We recommend that you download the PDF version of this booklet if you would like to read it on a Kindle™.
To transfer a PDF to your Kindle™ via USB cable from your computer or Mac:

  • download the PDF directly onto your computer.
  • connect the USB cable to your computer’s USB port, and the micro USB end of the cable to your Kindle™. Note: the Kindle™ won’t be available as a reading device while it is connected to your computer until it has been disconnected.
  • open the Kindle™ drive and several folders will appear inside. The “Documents” folder is where you will need to copy or drag the PDF to.
  • safely eject your Kindle™ from your computer and unplug the USB cable. Your content will appear on the Home Screen.

Kindle also provides a Kindle Personal Documents Service that allows users to send documents as an attachment directly to your eReader. For more information on this service, visit
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
Need more help? Visit

Android and PC

You can also download and open eBooks on Android devices and PCs with appropriate apps or software installed. Suitable eReader apps for Android include Google Play Books, FBReader and Moon+ Reader. Suitable software for PCs include Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions.

This information was last reviewed in December 2018
View who reviewed this content
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Support services

Coping with cancer?
Speak to a health professional or to someone who has been there, or find a support group or forum

Looking for transport, accommodation or home help?
Practical advice and support during and after treatment

Cancer information

When a family member has cancer
How the school community can support a family affected by cancer

View our publications
Guides and fact sheets for people with cancer, their families and friends