How Cancer May Change Holiday Traditions

A cancer diagnosis may mean that plans will have to change from what they’ve been in the past. Maybe your sister always hosts Thanksgiving dinner, but this year has been busy helping her child through treatment. Perhaps you and friends meet up to take the kids ice skating on Christmas day, but their child’s treatment has left them too weak to come this year.  If you’re planning to spend holidays with a family of a child with cancer this year, read these tips for helping them through a busy holiday season.

Give them an out. This year, the family may have to decide how many social events they can handle. Know that while they may want to attend, events may feel overwhelming and they may feel guilty backing out. Make sure they know it’s ok if they can’t make it this year. If you want, offer to get together at a time more convenient for them or in a smaller group.

Help them with roles they’ve had in the past. If there’s a role they’ve always had, like hosting a get-together or making a special dish, let them know they won’t be expected to do it this year if it is too difficult. Keep in mind – some families will want to keep up their normal traditions so it doesn’t feel like cancer is taking over their lives. If this is the case, respect their choice and maybe offer to help with the task instead.

Be flexible. Plans may change in the blink of an eye based on how their child is feeling. Be understanding of last-minute changes and assure the family it’s okay to cancel or reschedule. They are basing their decision off of how their child is feeling at the time and are probably just as disappointed they’ll miss the event as you are. Offer to reschedule or plan an activity at a better time. If you’re close with the family and there are other kids in the home, offer to take siblings with you so they can get out of the house for a while.

For more information on how to be a source of comfort for families facing cancer, download our guide Beyond “I’m Sorry”: Supporting a Family Facing Cancer.