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Information central for parenting with breast cancer.

Taking Care of Your Family

Working With School

How the School Can Help

Establishing good communication with your children’s school is an important component of helping your kids through your breast cancer treatment. The school is a logical place to seek support since your children spends most of the day there. Here are some ways the school can help:

  • Monitor academic performance. When kids are in distress, it often shows in their academic work. Your child’s teacher can keep you informed about his progress and any deviations from his normal performance. She can also modify his assignments and make other accommodations if he’s struggling.
  • Monitor social relationships. A child’s distress can also affect his relationships with other children. Some kids might isolate themselves. Other kids might have problems regulating their emotions. Depending on the child’s age and maturity, his feelings of anger, frustration, fear, and sadness can result in tears, screaming, bullying, or fighting. The school can watch out for these behaviors and contact you before problems develop.
  • Emotional support. Your child may need some extra emotional support at school. Just knowing that the school psychologist or social worker is available can be reassuring to children.

Privacy Issues

Many women feel a loss of privacy when they are diagnosed with breast cancer. They are less than eager to share their personal situation with the staff at their children’s school. Ironically, the school can actually assist you in maintaining privacy. Here’s how:

  • School administrators can help you decide which staff members need to know about your situation. For example, does every specialty teacher need to know about your illness? How about substitute teachers? Classroom aides? The school administrators can also serve as an intermediary with other staff members so you don’t have to discuss your situation repeatedly.
  • You can help decide how the school will share information. What will they tell the teachers? How will they answer questions from the kids? What about questions from other parents? If you don’t discuss this with your school, they will have to figure out the answers themselves. Their solution may not be the one you would have chosen yourself.
  • Federal laws limit the information school officials are allowed to share.

Initial Meeting

Timing: Schedule a meeting with your children’s school after you and your doctors have established a treatment plan.

Who Should Attend: The initial meeting should be attended by your child’s homeroom teacher and the school social worker or psychologist. Depending on the size and nature of your child’s school, you might also consider including the principal, the school nurse, and the guidance counselor.

Issues to Discuss:

  • Privacy: What information do you want to share? With which staff members?
  • Staff communication: How will staff members share information about your situation with each other? Will they have regular discussions or only talk as needed?
  • Communication with home: How will the school inform you of problems? How and whom will you contact with updates on your situation? Will you have regular discussions or only communicate as needed? How will you inform the school of changes in your child’s after-school routine? Will you communicate by phone or by e-mail?
  • Other students: How should the teachers respond to questions from other students? Should the students be told about your illness? Do you want to speak to the students yourself? Would you like the teacher or school social worker to talk with them?
  • Parents: How should school staff answer other parents’ questions? What if parents want to assist you with meals or rides to school? How should this be managed?
  • School work: Should the teachers give your child a break when it comes to homework? What happens if your child’s performance begins to slip?
  • Comfort and emotional support: How can the school help comfort your child during times of distress?
  • Handling outbursts and misbehavior: How should teachers handle misbehavior or outbursts of emotion?
  • Identifying problems: What signs should the school look for to see if your child is having problems?

Preparation: Prior to the meeting, use the School Meeting Worksheet to help you determine what you want the school to do for your family. Then create a School Meeting Agenda for yourself and to share with others if you’d like.

Ongoing Communication

Be sure to check in periodically with your child’s teacher to see how he’s doing. Give your child’s teacher notice before major events like surgery or the start of chemo. Let the teacher know if your child is having a particularly difficult day or if he’s especially worried about something.

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