There are a number of ways that you can support the friends of a child or young person with cancer in school, and other pupils.
Talking and sharing
- Check with the child or young person and their parents what information they are happy to be shared before talking to other pupils
- Inform other pupils sensitively about developments and changes in the child or young person with cancer in a calm and straightforward way. Talk to them in small groups and encourage them to ask questions and share their feelings.
- It might be possible for a CLIC Sargent Social Worker or outreach nurse from the hospital to come into the school to explain what is happening and answer questions from other pupils
- Encourage fellow pupils to maintain contact with their classmate, through calls, texts, Face Time, Skype and social networking sites (if they are old enough). They could also send cards and visit where appropriate.
- Teach the class general awareness of illness and ways in which they can be supportive
- Some larger children's cancer centres in the UK have a programme called 'Beads of Courage'. The child or young person on treatment collects beads for different parts of their cancer journey eg each time they have a blood test, chemotherapy treatment or a scan. The child or young person could bring their chain of beads to school to use in 'show and share' sessions to help them explain what treatment is like for them. This is a visual way for classmates to grasp what their friend is going through.
The school would often take him out of activities to help him try and catch up, so when other kids were having fun in the hall, he felt isolated and different. I think he felt a real lack of control.
- It's not uncommon for children and young people returning to school to experience teasing and even bullying, so it's essential to think about how classmates can support their friend and understand what they are going through. It may help to teach the class or group a little about cancer and its treatment.
- If there are instances of bullying, the child or young person, and their family, should have the opportunity to discuss how they would like it to be handled, whilst following the school’s usual anti-bullying policy
- If the child or young person isn't able to go outside at break and lunchtime, it's a good idea for them to have activities to do with a friend, supported or supervised by a Teaching Assistant if necessary.
Updated December 2015. Next planned review 2017.