Please don’t take “no, we don’t need any help” as a final response – ask again.
Please don’t say, “Call us if you need anything” because we probably won’t. We’re not used to needing help from others and often are so overwhelmed we don’t know what we need or how to ask.
Think about what you can do to help and make a concrete offer. Say “I’d like to mow your grass” or “I’ll babysit (the sibling(s)) this week-end” or “I’ll snow blow your driveway for the season” If you offer something definite and we refuse, please call back in a week or month and ask again. Newly diagnosed families often don’t realize how disruptive cancer treatment will be.
Remember that a childhood cancer diagnosis presents a long term family problem. Meals and help the first few weeks are nice, but treatment can last one year or several years. Families need emotional support for the entire time the child is in treatment.
It’s hard to know what to say, but a simple call or email every week or two to say “I’m thinking of you” can mean so much. Parents often lose friends or are distanced from relatives as treatment drags on – people who call for no reason at all are treasured!
Please don’t say: “I don’t know how you handle it. You’re so strong, I just couldn’t do it.” Parents have no choice but to handle the situation, just as parents handle any other parenting challenge. Think about what you would do if your child had a serious illness – a friend of relative whose child has cancer is no different than you.
Please don’t say “The Lord never gives you more than you can handle.” The parent of a child with cancer may feel they are near the breaking point, or may no longer be on speaking terms with the Lord.
Acknowledge that something horrible has happened. It won’t be news to the family and is much better than tongue-tied, awkward silences.