Tips for Going Back to School
School Reentry - August/September
As August fades into September the reality of the school year on the horizon is hard to deny, especially with the wonderful backpacks of freshly packaged school supplies arriving at our Friends of Karen (FoK) families’ doors. Though the end of summer can be a bittersweet time for any child, children reentering school after being sidelined by a serious illness may have many mixed emotions that are more than just the typical butterflies.
Going back to school can mark a return to normalcy - after an experience with cancer (or other serious illness) that felt anything but. While at first it may have been a little fun that “school” was a tutor coming to your house while you studied in your pajamas that gets old quickly. Children are often eager to return to their friends and welcome the opportunity to socialize. Just as it is normal to feel excited, feeling worried about anything from being teased to not being able to keep up physically and academically is also very typical.
Shania, 14- shares some worries she experienced when she returned to school after a year long treatment for Ewing Sarcoma:
- Just going back to school in general
- My friends not recognizing me
- Students making fun of me for being bald
- Being sick and having to go home early
- Not being able to make it to class on time
- Missing school because of doctors appointments
Friends of Karen Sibling Support Specialists have turned to the experts- veteran FoK children to share some advice for heading back to school. (We’ve added our own tips as well.)
Here’s what might help…
- Have a meeting before you return.
Parents and children should meet with teachers, counselors, the school nurse or anyone else who the child will work closely with and help the transition go smoothly. Develop a plan to address any concerns or meet any physical, emotional and/or academic needs/accommodations.
Consider sending a hospital care team member or even a Friends of Karen Sibling Support Specialist to the classroom to provide illness education and answer any questions your classmates might have. Reading a book to her class helped Sophia (then 8) feel better able to talk about her illness.
- Communicate how you want others to treat you.
Maybe you want your classmates to act like nothing has happened, or maybe you welcome talking about what you’ve been through. As long as you are safe and comfortable, it’s your choice. Often people don’t know how to act- having a teacher or other adult communicate your wishes can help put everyone at ease.
- Find your go-to people for support.
Having a tutoring teacher from the same school helped Sophia because she was able to ask her questions and talk to her not only about academic things. Make a list of the adults you can go to for support. When you can identify your go-to supporters/mentors it can help you feel more confident and less alone. Don’t forget your friends! Shania, 14, recommends seeking out your past friends and also making new ones.
- Chances are people will be so happy to see you.
Camila, age 6, tells us that the love and the support that her friends and her teachers gave her when they saw her again helped. The day she came back to school everybody was so happy. Shania urges us not to be afraid. Everyone will accept you for who you are and what happened.
- Be brave and remember to have hope.
Shania tells us to try new things. Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Don’t get caught on your past and try to focus on the future.
We hope that your school year is filled with special memories and the magic of childhood. Remember to work hard, be gentle with yourself and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Everyone at Friends of Karen wishes you a very happy Back to School!