A new support service has been launched at Peter Mac in response to the unique challenges faced by patients who are also parents of young or adolescent children. Parent Matters - a joint initiative of Peter Mac and CanTeen – responds to the profound and long-lasting impact that cancer can have on children as roles and family relationships change to adjust to the presence of the disease.

The service provides structured support to parents, helping them to communicate with their children when distress is present, and easing some of the challenges experienced by parents with cancer.

Any Peter Mac patient who is a parent of children under the age of 25 years may access this service. Support begins at initial diagnosis and continues on throughout treatment periods, as well as at the palliative or survivorship stages.

“We know that cancer affects all members of the family - not just the patient,” says Elena Schiena, Social Worker & Parent Support Worker at Peter Mac.

“Parents are often left wondering how they can best support their children as they undergo treatment and beyond.”

While aware of these issues, parents can find it difficult to raise these with their healthcare professionals in the midst of their own emotional trauma and commitment to treatment.

The service’s origins are in a patient study at Peter Mac in 2015-16, which highlighted the need to identify parents as early in their cancer experience as possible so their additional family pressures could be addressed.

Around the same time the study findings were being reviewed, CanTeen approached Peter Mac to discuss working in partnership to deliver a service specifically aimed at supporting parents with cancer and connecting their children with CanTeen’s established youth support services – which include tailored services for children of parents with cancer.

“Young people dealing with a parent’s cancer are up to six times more likely to face mental health issues like depression and anxiety,” says CanTeen CEO Peter Orchard.

“Worrying about their children causes significant additional stress for parents with cancer so having this support available for the wider family also helps the patient.”

For more information, or to make a booking to see a social worker in the Parent Matters program, please contact: (03) 8559 5267 or email [email protected]