How much 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 are more private and tell only a chosen few. Most people try to strike a balance in between. Try to think of your child’s school as a partner in keeping his or her life as normal as possible.

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. If your child is having problems dealing with your diagnosis or treatment, teachers and school staff will probably notice changes in them. Some children behave badly, some have trouble concentrating, their grades may suffer, or they may seem sad or withdrawn.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 this happens in the classroom, it will help your child if the school staff is well-informed and knows your situation.

Your child’s teacher also can be helpful if other children ask questions about your illness or in some way cause stress for your child. Children may not mean to be cruel, but sometimes they’re 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.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Revised: April 27, 2015

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