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Children's Experiences of Participation in a Family Support Program When Their Parent Has Incurable Cancer

Bugge, Kari E. MNSC, RN; Helseth, Solvi PhD, MNSC, RN; Darbyshire, Philip PhD, MN, DipN(Lond), RNT, RNMH, RSCN

doi: 10.1097/01.NCC.0000339250.83571.b0

For a child, facing the imminent death of a parent is a highly stressful situation. This study assessed a preventive support program for children aged between 5 and 18 years and their families when a mother or father has an incurable form of cancer. We chose a family-based approach to reduce risk factors and enhance protective factors by increasing positive interactions between parents and children and by increasing their mutual understanding of the illness and its family impact. In this article, we focus especially on the children's experiences of how the Family Support Program met their needs and supported their coping. The qualitative study involved collecting descriptive data via in-depth interviews with children of cancer patients in palliative care after participation in the Family Support Program. The program helped the children to feel more secure; increased their knowledge and understanding; helped them become aware of their own role, their family's strengths, and whom they could approach for help; and helped them realize that it was good and helpful to talk about the illness situation. They needed to talk in private without having to think about other family members' reactions, but they also needed to be in dialogue with other family members.

Authors' Affiliations: Faculty of Nursing, Oslo University College, Oslo, Norway (Ms Bugge and Dr Helseth); Center for Health Promotion, Akershus University Hospital, Lørenskog, Norway (Ms Bugge); and Children, Youth, & Women's Health Service, University of South Australia, Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia (Dr Darbyshire).

The Foundation for Health and Rehabilitation sponsored the project activities in the hospitals. Oslo University College sponsored the time needed to undertake the evaluation research. Ullevaal University Hospital, Akershus University Hospital, and Innlandet Hospital helped to create and implement the intervention program.

Corresponding author: Kari E. Bugge, MNSC, RN, Seksjon for Sorgstøtte, Senter for helsefremmende arbeid, Akershus Universitetssykehus, Sykehusveien 27, N-1478 Lørenskog, Norway (

Accepted for publication May 30, 2008.

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.