Child and Adolescent Life Services

Support for Children Whose Parents or Primary Caregivers Have Cancer

For More Information 919-684-4497

Certified child and adolescent life specialists at the Duke Cancer Institute help kids understand and cope with the emotional and psychosocial effects of a parent's or caregiver's cancer diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship. By putting your child’s emotional and developmental needs front and center, we help them -- and you -- manage stress, practice coping skills, and effectively communicate their feelings. We also provide age-appropriate information and educational activities for children and adults to guide them through the cancer experience. These services are free for Duke cancer patients and their families through the Duke Cancer Patient Support Program.

Our Locations

Duke Health offers locations throughout the Triangle. Find one near you.

The Role of a Child and Adolescent Life Specialist

Our child and adolescent life specialists are trained in child and adolescent development, health education, and family-centered care. We teach and support kids and families through the cancer journey. Helping children better understand and cope with their parent's or caregiver's illness can reduce stress and make it easier for families to talk about cancer.

We also give adult family members and caregivers the tools you need to communicate honestly and appropriately about your illness, treatments, prognosis, and the effects they may have on you and your family. You will learn to recognize signs that your child may need additional psychosocial support and how to connect with a licensed mental health provider.  

Duke Cancer Support Programs

Our cancer support programs help families facing cancer cope with the mental, emotional, and social concerns that may arise during, and in the years after cancer treatment.

Services and Programs 

Education Sessions
Our child and adolescent life specialists offer hands-on learning that includes developmentally appropriate activities, such as reading, playing with medical teaching dolls, conducting science experiments, and creating artwork. We can also model healthy coping strategies and suggest additional educational resources. These sessions are available in person or virtually.

Parenting with Cancer Virtual Meetups
These online gatherings are for parents or guardians with cancer. At these meetups, attendees can share parenting ideas and experiences while learning about child development and how a child’s age and stage of development affect their ability to handle the changes that cancer brings to your family.

Our specially trained staff supports children ages four to 18 who have a parent or significant caregiver who has been diagnosed with cancer. Children and teens can express their feelings in a safe environment and interact with peers going through a similar experience. Adults meet separately to discuss the challenges of parenting while coping with cancer.

This page was medically reviewed on 10/04/2023