Helping Children When A Family Member Has Cancer: Dealing With Treatment

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What should I tell my child’s school about my illness?

Each family differs in their comfort level with giving out information about an illness. Some people want everyone in their lives to know, while others tell only a chosen few. Most people try to strike a balance in between. Try to think of your child’s school as your partner in keeping his or her life as normal as possible.

If your child is having problems dealing with your diagnosis or treatment, teachers and school staff will probably notice the signs in your child. Talk to your child’s teacher or guidance counselor. They don’t need all of the details about your illness and treatment, just enough information to understand what your child is going through. Some children behave badly, some have trouble concentrating, their grades may suffer, or they may seem sad or withdrawn. Some kids act agitated, or begin to have physical complaints like an upset stomach or headaches. If these reactions happen in the classroom, it will help your child if the school staff is well-informed, know your situation, and can use the chance to help your child.

Your child’s teacher also can be helpful if other children ask questions about your illness or in some way make life harder for your child. Children may not mean to be cruel, but sometimes they are not mature enough to know what’s all right to talk about openly and what’s off-limits. If the teacher has some basic information, he or she can help answer questions as they come up.

Last Medical Review: 08/07/2012
Last Revised: 08/07/2012