Celebrating The Holidays when Your Child Has Cancer: 6 Helpful Tips

Under the best of circumstances, holidays can be stressful… especially for parents who make the magic happen for everyone else.

There are endless lists for shopping, decorating, entertaining, and travel plans. So, you can only imagine how much more stressful this time of year can be when one of your children is undergoing cancer treatments.

Every family and child is different, so you may have to figure some of this out as you go, but here are a few helpful tips to help make things a little easier and more fun for all.

1. Remind Kids They’re in Charge of Their Bodies

The pandemic has even further complicated the holiday season. But this tip is valid regardless of any illness. Children of all ages and conditions should know that they do not have to hug or kiss any family members or friends of the family. Their physical comfort is the top priority always.

2. Don’t Try to Do It All

If you’re like me, you have certain traditions and standards you keep up every year. But just know that when circumstances in your family change, traditions can change too. Maybe this year, you do all your gift shopping online and order a prepared meal for Thanksgiving dinner. Maybe instead of getting the kid’s teachers personalized items, you just opt for Starbucks gift cards.

Bottom line, you’re going through an extraordinarily difficult experience. So, it’s totally OK to hit the easy button without an ounce of guilt. Everyone who cares for you will understand and roll with the punches.

3. Prep Friends & Family

Your child may look different from the last time your friends and family have seen them. So, it’s important to prepare them and even provide some gentle coaching on behaviors. If, for example, your child has lost their hair and is very self-conscious about it, it’s a good ideal to tell folks not to comment on it at all. Better yet, figure out what will make your child comfortable – a wig, a hat, a hoodie – and let them choose how they want to present t


Your kiddo may also be sick of answering questions about how they’re feeling, so let people know this too. A few short conversations beforehand can go a long way in making your child feel more at ease on a special day.

4. Go Where You Feel Comfortable

This may be a controversial tip, but I urge you not to go anywhere that stresses you out. If going to your in-laws’ house on Christmas Eve riles everyone, skip it this year. Your family’s comfort is the top priority. People will understand and make concessions for the special circumstances you’re dealing with. And even if they’re upset, they’ll get over it.

5. Get Lots of Rest

Assuming you and your kids have time off work and school, prioritize recharging your batteries, resting and spending quality time together. Those are the most important parts of this time of year.

6. Communicate & Be Flexible

One of the hardest parts about navigating the holidays when you have a child with cancer is making sure that the season still has a sense of normalcy for them and your other children. So, you may want to have a family meeting to discuss which traditions are most important and how things can be adapted in a way that everyone is comfortable with.

And above all, everyone in the family needs to approach this time of year with a sense of flexibility and togetherness. We’re a team and we take care of each other. Unexpected things are sure to come up and it may feel a little different than past holiday seasons. That’s a given. Just be sure to find moments to make joy and memories together!