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School days: a lesson in communication

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Rio Grande Cancer Foundation
Rio Grande Cancer Foundation
Rio Grande Cancer Foundation   3 min read 7 years ago

School days: a lesson in communication

Attending school helps children with cancer feel normal. Children who continue their schooling, whether in the hospital, at home, or in school, are able to retain part of their regular routine and connection with their peer group through the shared experience of education. Whether or not they attend school in the traditional sense, keeping up with schoolwork and learning helps to give children with cancer a sense of stability and normalcy in a hectic and often frightening time.

Educators have a significant role to play in encouraging children's integration into a normal life routine. At the same time, it is natural for teachers to have concerns and worries about having the child in their classroom. Educators need practical strategies and support to help children with cancer during diagnosis, and before, during, and after treatment.

Communication is key

Communication with parents and those directly involved with the child's needs is a vital aspect in supporting the child with cancer.

Principals and teachers should take an active role in establishing communication as soon as possible rather than in reaction to a crisis. They should maintain this interaction throughout the child's formal school years. As students mature, they may be able to assume some responsibility for communication.

As the school administrator, the principal is the continuing link with the child and family and must keep informed of and assess information to be communicated within the school, as this changes overtime.

Educators can facilitate students moving from elementary to secondary school by establishing good communication between the two schools.

To prepare for talking with the student about their illness, which can be difficult, teachers should find out from parents what the student knows about their illness and how much parents want them to know.

Students may know they are very ill and be afraid that they might die, but may be too scared to talk to their parents. Sometimes an independent counselor, such as a teacher or psychologist, can help relieve anxiety and ease communication among family members about these difficult issues.

Communication Tips

Initiate and keep in regular contact with the parents to be current on the child's progress at the hospital, at home, and at school.

Contact the related treatment and support team, as appropriate, to get information on the impact of the disease on the student and family.

Visit the child in the hospital and at home to maintain the link with school, and offer support to parents.

With parental permission, provide all school staff with sufficient information and understanding of the student's condition so they can contribute to a safe and caring learning environment as the student progresses through their illness.

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