Telling your child’s teacher you have cancer
Avril de Beer explains the support advantages for your child when you inform their teacher about your cancer diagnosis.
You can listen to this article below, or by using your favourite podcast player at pod.link/oncologybuddies
A cancer diagnosis is a life-altering experience. Every aspect of your life is affected by your diagnosis and your treatment. You might feel sad, overwhelmed, and scared. As a parent, you might be worried about the impact of your diagnosis and treatment on your children’s lives. Since your children spend most of their waking hours at school, their teachers are in the best position to offer support to them during this emotionally taxing time.
When do you need to inform your child’s school?
As soon as you’ve informed your child about your diagnosis, you need to inform their teacher, grade head (high school) or school counsellor. It’s important to tell your child that some of the staff at their school need to know about your cancer so that there is someone available if they need to talk or if they need additional support.
Ideally, arrange a face-to-face meeting with your child’s teacher, the grade head and/or the school counsellor to discuss your diagnosis and treatment.
If that’s not possible, you can call them or send them an email.
It can be hard to share personal information with people you don’t know well so you can decide how much information you want to share with your child’s teacher. It would be helpful to tell the teacher about the type and duration of treatment you’re going to receive. Remember to contact the school if there is a change in your treatment plan in future, especially if it might cause additional stress at home.
After your meeting with the teacher or relevant staff members, you should inform your children which staff members attended the meeting and the gist of your discussion with them.
Why do you need to inform your child’s school or teacher?
The teachers and support staff at the school form an integral part of your child’s support system. Your child’s teacher sees your child every weekday. Accordingly, they are often the first to notice changes in your child’s behaviour or performance. If their teacher knows about your diagnosis, they will understand why your child is suddenly arguing with all their friends, for example, or why they are not doing their homework.
Your child may experience a range of emotions like fear, grief, and anger after your diagnosis. The teacher will be able to offer emotional support to your child if they get overwhelmed by their feelings. If necessary, the teacher can refer your child to the school counsellor.
- Ensure that you have your child’s teacher’s cell phone number and email address, so you can contact them if you’re worried about your child’s school performance or if you want to inform them of any changes in your condition or treatment.
- Decide which information the teacher is allowed to share with the other members of staff at school.
- Request flexibility regarding the due dates of your child’s assignments and projects.
- Give the school names and contact details of one or two responsible adults (parents of your child’s school friends) who can assist if you or your spouse or partner are unable to fetch your child from school.
- Decide how the teacher or the responsible adults can communicate important information about your child’s well-being to you. Would you prefer telephone calls, texting or emails?
Make an appointment with the school principal if you experience financial difficulties as a result of your illness or treatment. You may be able to apply for an exemption of school fees or a subsidy.
MEET THE EXPERT – Avril de Beer
Avril de Beer is a social worker at Alberts Cellular Therapy in Pretoria. She is constantly looking for new ways to connect with patients and to learn more about their unique needs. She also has a private practice in Centurion where she counsels individuals who are experiencing major life changes.
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