If a pupil at your school has a parent or sibling with cancer

When a child has a parent or sibling with cancer, they are likely to experience a range of emotions.

They may feel confused about the illness or worried about the potential death of a loved one. They may even feel guilty or try to assign blame. It is common for these feelings to affect the young person's behaviour at school. For example, they may:

  • become disruptive
  • become withdrawn
  • get frustrated or upset easily
  • fall behind in their work
  • play truant.

It's important for school staff to be aware of a cancer diagnosis within a family. It’s also important for them to be aware of any additional help and support the child will need.

The child may be questioned or teased about the illness in their family. If possible, the young person's parent(s) or guardian(s) should try to talk to them about how to deal with their peers in these situations. The child should know what information has been given to their classmates so they can try to consider the questions that maybe asked. This will also help them build trust, and they should be told that they can talk to you.

We have information and advice about talking to children when an adult has cancer. This covers questions children might ask and their possible reactions. Our free booklet Preparing a child for loss may also have some useful advice at this time.

If you would like advice on how to cope with the needs of a child when someone close to them has cancer, you might find it helpful to call our cancer support specialists

We also have information for young carers of people with cancer.

Back to Information and advice

Bereavement

Open discussions about illnesses like cancer can help to give pupils the message that it's okay to talk about illness and loss.