Managing emotions

Everyone responds differently to the treatment phase. Anger, crying and withdrawal are some of the possible reactions. These can be protective responses that allow a child or young person time to deal with the information.

If your kids’ reactions seem unusual or extreme, consider getting some professional support. However, some children may hide their feelings because they do not want to add to their parents’ stress. Even if your child’s behaviour doesn’t suggest they are struggling, let them know you appreciate how hard this situation is for them.

Learn more about:

Ways to manage emotions

Ways to help them to understand and manage these emotions, include:

  • Encourage, but don’t push, kids to identify and name feelings. For younger children, you may need to recognise and identify the emotion for them (e.g. “you look angry” or “you seem really worried”).
  • Reassure them that there are no right or wrong feelings. Everyone reacts in their own way.
  • Let them know that anger, guilt and sadness are normal feelings. You feel them too and it is okay to talk about them.
  • Remind them that they can talk to you anytime about how they’re feeling.
  • Discuss ways to manage anxiety and stress.
  • Make sure they have plenty of opportunities for physical activity and spending time with friends.
  • Provide plenty of physical comfort, such as hugs and cuddles.
  • Offer creative ways for children to express their emotions.
  • Create everyday opportunities for humour and fun. Let your children know that it is alright to joke and have fun. Laughter can often relieve tension and help everyone relax.

Changed behaviour

“My husband, Bruce, had a brain tumour and his personality changed because of it. At the dinner table one night, our four-year-old, Emma, announced, ‘I wish Daddy was dead.’

I calmly asked Emma what she meant. She replied, ‘I don’t like the man who’s in my Daddy’s body. I want my real Daddy back.’ I could then explain why Bruce’s behaviour had changed.” 

Debra, mother of a four-year-old  

The emotions thermometer

The physical and emotional health of a person with cancer will vary during and after treatment. It can sometimes be hard to let your family know how you’re feeling, and they might find it hard to ask.

An emotions thermometer may help. This simple tool allows you to show how you’re feeling every day. You can make one yourself and ask the kids to help. Choose which feelings to include and add a pointer that moves to the different feelings.

Put the emotions thermometer up where everyone can see it, such as on the fridge or noticeboard.

Living with uncertainty

One of the challenges of a cancer diagnosis is dealing with uncertainty.

When first diagnosed, many people want to know what’s going to happen and when it will be over. But living with uncertainty is part of having cancer. There are some questions you will not be able to answer. Learning as much as you can about the cancer may make you feel more in control.

You may find you need to give your family regular updates on the progress of treatment.

Talk about any uncertainty with your children by saying something like, “The doctor is confident that this is the best treatment for me, but if that changes, we’ll let you know, and we may have to look at another type of treatment.”

Listen to our podcasts on How to Help Someone with CancerCancer Affects the Carer Too, and Family Dynamics and Cancer

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.

Need more help? Visit:


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.

Need more help? Visit:

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
View our editorial policy

Support services

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

Work and cancer
Information for employees, employers and workplaces dealing with cancer

Cancer information

Cancer treatment
Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery and other treatments

When a student’s family member has cancer
How the school community can offer support