Living with children's cancer

Missing school

Your child might have to miss some school time during their treatment or if they are unwell.

Your child will miss out on their studies as well as social aspects of being at school. They are likely to miss their school friends, playtimes and participating in communal activities such as sports, presentations and concerts. If possible, arranging visits from friends, classmates or teachers can be helpful for your child.

There are lots of other ways for your child to stay connected with school. Some options can include video conferencing tools to participate in classroom lessons, sending work to the student at home, inviting school friends to email or send them letters and keeping them in the loop through school newsletters and handouts. Talk to the school about what they can do. You can also visit the Missing School or Ronald McDonald House Charities websites for tips. You can also get in touch with the Ronald McDonald Learning Program and Redkite for some extra help.

Some children feel excited about returning to school, while others feel upset or anxious. These are all normal reactions. Going back to school can be a challenge, a relief or both. 

Parents may worry that school might be overwhelming for their child. They worry their child will get infections, become overly tired, or be teased for being different.

If your child misses a lot of school, this may affect their long-term education. Even if your child does miss out on academic lessons at school, it does not mean they will miss out on other important parts of learning. Supports are available through cancer centres and schools to assist parents to maintain social and academic learning. They will also learn from the other adults who are caring for them. 

It is important to monitor and support the educational lives of other children within the family as these may similarly be disrupted or impaired.

When your child is ready to go back to school, communicate early with the school to ask what resources and tools will help plan for school re-entry, and how to develop an education plan. This is best done with the treatment team. Some children may need some extra help in catching up on school. 

Some children may not want to go back to school.  Ask your child about what is troubling them. You can also talk with the teachers and school counsellor about your child's feelings. They may also have some ideas about what can help, such as staggered return to school (1-2 days, or half days). Give your child opportunities to choose what will work for them – giving them a sense of control even in small ways that can help their adjustment and willingness to return to school.


Tips for helping your child go back to school

  • Talk to the school about ways the staff and students can stay in touch with your child while they're away. Also find out how your child's schoolwork can be accessed when they're well enough again.
  • When your child is ready to go back to school, encourage teachers and classmates to treat your child just like they did before. Identify and highlight any special needs your child might have, such as tiredness and risk of infection.
  • Make sure the other students know how your child might look and feel when they go back to school. Let other students know what they can do to help your child fit back into school life.
  • Make sure you talk to your child about how they feel about missing school or going back to school. Always support and encourage them.