What can we do when someone we love has cancer?

Adapted from Because… Someone I Love Has Cancer, (2003). American Cancer Society.

Do Activities Together

1. Role play what happens during cancer with dolls or stuffed animals.

2. Create a feeling collage using drawings, words, and pictures from


3. Plant a seed or garden and talk about what things need to grow.

4. Make play dough and sculpt a feeling.

5. Tell jokes and laugh together.

6. Create a special saying board with strong words and inspirational quotes.

7. Tell shared stories of favorite memories.

8. Make a feelings wheel to share what you are feeling now.

9. Talk about how things change and how they stay the same.

10. Write troubles on slips of paper, and have a stuffed animal or drawing of a creature eat them.

11. Make a family or friend portrait

12. Write a letter to the person with cancer.

13. Read books about characters going through cancer and other difficult circumstances.

Read about cancer with children

Reading supports a healthy body and mind. Reading with our children lowers our heart rate and relaxes the body. When children see a family impacted by cancer in the Home exhibit, may see themselves and find a place of belonging and understanding. They may also learn about families living with cancer for the first time and develop tools to cope with a difficult disease in the wider world, to ask questions and develop acceptance. Reading also helps empower adult caregivers with vocabulary and concrete imagery to talk with children about cancer. 

Get creative during difficult times

Being creative and using imagination during difficult times helps us access, process and express our feelings. As we create with our bodies, we are present. We can see ourselves and be seen by others. Though the process of creating, we have permission to be be messy and to embrace the messiness of life. This process reminds us that we are enough. That this moment is enough.

Focus on emotions and feelings

Going through a difficult disease like cancer, we have many emotions. Emotions help us survive and thrive in relation to difficulties. They are the body’s way of completing an experience. Emotions allow others to understand ourselves and others: what we feel, how we feel in our bodies, how our behavior relates to our feelings. Emotions help us make decisions and take action. Being vulnerable with our emotions helps us form deep relationships with one another. 

Young girl with tree drawing
Sharon with parents and little girl
girls attentively drawing
mother and child reading the LGM book
fun activities

Are you a family impacted by cancer?

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Talking About Cancer With Children

Family Activities For Joy and Healing 

Cancer Resource Links

American Cancer Society: Children and Cancer

Camp Kesem

National Cancer Institute: Patient Education Publication

Simms/Mann UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology

Susan G. Komen Orange County

Helping Children When a Family Member Has Cancer 

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