Children Navigating Parental Cancer: Outcomes of a Psychosocial Intervention

Carla ONeill, Catherine S O'Neill, Cherith Semple

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
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Research has evidenced a marked increase in the prevalence of cancer among younger people with up to one in five, parenting children under the age of 18 years of age. When a parent is diagnosed with cancer they experience fears and anxieties as they attempt to simultaneously manage their role as a parent, with the illness experience. Parents have expressed difficulties in knowing how to communicate appropriately with their children throughout the illness trajectory as they are primarily focused on protecting or shielding their children from knowledge of the illness. Understandably parents may become overwhelmed with significant parental stress impacting on their psychological well-being. This subsequently affects the well-being of the entire family unit, coupled with changes to routines, roles, and responsibilities. This study was carried out to examine how a group psychosocial intervention Children’s Lives Include Moments of Bravery (CLIMB®) helped young children to navigate parental cancer. A qualitative research design utilizing focus group methodology, artwork and individual interviews was used to generate data from 19 participants (parents, children, and health-care professionals). Three key themes emerged from the data, navigating the diagnosis, navigating emotions and changed routines, creating spaces to talk about cancer. The findings evidenced that attending CLIMB® was a positive experience for both children and parents. It gave the children the language and opportunity to express their fears and worries. CLIMB® equipped them with tools and skills to both express and manage their negative emotions, life skills that could be transferred to other challenging life events. All techniques that created spaces to talk and appeared to have a reassuring effect on the children. The parents appreciated the professional support that the structured intervention offered to them and helped them communicate more openly with their children. Creating spaces to talk about cancer reduces mistrust and tension between parents and children, when parental cancer occurs, and hopefully minimizes future psychological and social problems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-127
Number of pages17
JournalComprehensive Child and Adolescent Nursing
Issue number2
Early online date15 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished online - 15 Mar 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, © 2019 Taylor & Francis.

Copyright 2019 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Parental cancer
  • Children
  • psychosocial intervention
  • family support needs
  • Republic of Ireland
  • family support
  • children


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