Parenting with a Terminal Illness

Some might argue that “intentional” is by now just a hackneyed buzzword. Still, we use it often at IoH because we think it is one of the best ways to describe how our families living with terminal illness can best leave a legacy for those they love the most. What does this mean?  Here we will give you some practical tips on how to parent intentionally while living with a terminal illness.


  • Slow down when you talk to your kids. Life is already too fast-paced for most of us. For kids, the added stress of a parent with life-threatening illness just ramps up everything.  Try to be thoughtful in conversations with your kids.  
  • Determine what is really important to you and your family. Let go of the rest. Trust us–no one will miss it. 
  • Have family meals if possible, and try your best to ban phones from the table. Often, a sick parent physically cannot be part of mealtimes. IoH families who have been through what you are going through will tell you that this is part of what you are dealing with, so don’t place undue pressure on yourself. What kids really need is to have consistent times that they can check in and be checked in on. Make that a priority whenever it works for you.
  • Need to feel like you are connecting with your kids but are too tired to ask more than the standard “how was your day?” See this easy list of ways to improve your dinner table debrief, walk from the bus stop, or carpool pick up. 


  • It’s ok to let your children know that you are anxious. In fact, it’s better to voice how you feel, because not only do they pick up on more than you realize, but this models healthy communication skills and coping mechanisms. See our “Tips for talking with your children about your illness.”   
  • Notice the little things, and appreciate them.  Often, for children, the “little” things are the big things.

Also, join our Hope@Home groups to meet other parents who understand.