Preparing for a child with cancer returning to school
Going back to school can be a sign to everyone that a young person's life is getting back to normal. This can be a boost for the person with cancer and their classmates but there are things you may like to consider before the child returns.
It is a good idea for the parent(s) or guardian(s) to talk to their child first about how they feel about returning to school, so they can understand their child’s fears or anxieties. It can help to think about the kind of questions the child’s peers may have and to consider possible answers for them. Possible questions might be ‘Are you going to die?’, ‘Can I catch it?’ and ‘Can you still play?’.
The school should be given the basic information about the child’s illness and treatment, including possible physical and emotional side effects, any medication and when it should be taken, and expected absences. If the child has lost their hair due to treatment such as chemotherapy, they may want to wear a hat. Allowances should be made for situations like this and other teachers should be told.
The child’s parent(s) or guardian(s) should get a letter with all of this information from the child’s medical team, which they can pass on to the school. You can ask the child’s medical team to send a letter directly to the school. It may also be useful if a member from the child’s medical team acts as a point of contact with the school for information and advice.
Preparing classmates and peers
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If the child and their parent(s) or guardian(s) agree to it, teachers may want to discuss the illness and treatment with other pupils before the child returns. Staff and classmates should be prepared for what to expect, such as hair loss, weight gain or loss, or the child wearing a wig or hat at school. This can help to prevent the child being singled out or teased.
Classmates and peers may need to be reassured that there is no risk to them if the person with cancer is returning to school - they can't ‘catch’ cancer. Macmillan’s Cancertalk teaching pack contains lesson plans and learning resources to help you talk confidently about cancer with your pupils. You could also request a representative from Macmillan to give a general talk about cancer.