Children with cancer often have concerns about either starting a new school year or returning to school after missing several days or weeks because of hospitalization or doctors' appointments. Here are some tips to keep in mind to help your child enjoy a good school year as they undergo treatment for cancer.
Plan an Appropriate Back to School Welcome
If you know your child will have to miss some days during the school year, make arrangements with their teachers or the school to have a little welcome back party for them following long absences. But be respectful of your child's feelings, especially if they prefer a more low-key welcome when they get back to school. Another option is to have a welcome back party at your own home with their friends from school the day or weekend before they'll be returning to school.
Arrange for Appropriate Learning Assistance
Because of missed days of school, some kids with cancer have difficulty grasping certain concepts. Even if they'll have access to assignments online, they may need some extra support to keep on track with the rest of their peers. If this is what your child needs, options include:
- Arranging for after-school or at-home tutoring sessions
- Asking their teachers to give them extra time to complete assignments
- Discussing possible modifications, such as a verbal lessons instead of written ones
Keep Your Child Involved In All Classroom Activities
It's easy for a child with cancer to feel left out of certain classroom activities. Make an effort to keep them as involved as possible by arranging from them to use devices for video chats (when appropriate). Or ask your child's school if some classroom activities can be live-streamed via social media.
Another innovative option is a program called Monkey in My Chair, which gives your child a stuffed monkey that will physically take their place at school when they can't be there. They also have "Monkey Messages" to allow your child to share photos and updates.
Encourage Them to Maintain Friendships
One of the greatest school-related fears children with cancer have is not being able to stay connected with their friends. But with a little creativity and planning on your part, your child can maintain important friendships even when they'll have to be in and out of school. Some ways to accomplish this goal include:
- Asking their teachers to have their classmates record short video greetings
- Arranging for classmates to visit them during times when they'll need to be in the hospital for a while
- Planning special outing with their school friends – e.g., backyard "camping trips," slumber parties, theme parties, or movie nights
- Asking if your child's school would be willing to get all students involved in cancer fundraising activities
Also, consider allowing your child to take advantage of peer support groups online specifically for kids or teens with cancer. These online resources can give your child a way to stay connected with peers also dealing with the same cancer-related problems as they go through their school year.