For kindergartners through teenagers, it’s back-to-school time. And while this annual rite of passage is often met with groans, for children undergoing cancer treatment, this can be a welcome change – provided you properly prepare.
“School serves as a normalizing experience for kids with cancer, because it’s what their peer group is doing,” says Lisa Northman, PhD, a staff psychologist in the School Liaison Program at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center. “It’s important for them to know that even in the midst of their treatment, there is a life available to them outside the hospital. They should participate in this developmental milestone as much as they can.”
While every case is different, and certain types of cancer involve longer inpatient stays and medical restrictions, Northman says there are many ways that parents can work with their school and care team to help children return to the classroom on a regular or occasional basis.
My child has expressed some anxiety about going back to school. How can I help?
Anxious in Andover
Back-to-school can be a stressful time for children of all ages, as well as for their parents. Children and teens may worry about practical things such as being able to find their way around the school building, may have concerns about their ability to get work done and receive good grades, or may experience anxiety related to friends and peer relationships as the year begins.
One way that parents can help is by giving children information or experiences beforehand that allow them to have a clearer idea about what to expect. For example, sharing information with a young child about what the classroom schedule and routine will be like, or about the child’s teachers, can help kids feel prepared.
Read more, and watch this video interview with Dr. Snell to learn how to help your child.
The suicide of 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick in September in the wake of repeated cyberbullying is a tragic and timely reminder of bullying’s consequences. October is National Bullying Prevention Month, which means schools across the U.S. are rolling out skits, posters and even apps to raise awareness and prevent bullying. However, the practice is pervasive; in 2009, one in five high school students admitted being bullied at school.
Yet, a recent study suggests that bullying prevention programs help bullies hone their harassment skills. Has this study delivered a knock-out blow to these efforts? …
For teenagers and young adults with IBD who recently went to college for the first time, the prospect of managing their health without help from their parents or caregivers can be intimidating. To feel more in control of the situation, it may help to make a list of potential concerns your soon-to-be freshman may have about living at school, and then work with him or her to find ways to solve them. This way, if IBD issues do arise, there will be an established action plan to handle them. Some things to consider:
- Will being at college affect his or her health insurance plan? If so, how?
- Who will the child call in a medical emergency?
- Can he or she eat the food in the cafeteria? If not where can safe foods be found?
- Is there a gastroenterologist near the college?
- Does the school have Disability Services department or an office of Student Affairs? You may wish to contact them to determine the school’s medical leave of absence policy in case the situation arises.
Young adults who will be traveling or living away from home for the first time with IBD may want to consult this eBook, with more information on the subject.
“Planning ahead for college when you have IBD is helpful, but there’s far more to managing the condition at college than getting to know a new doctor or knowing what foods to avoid in the dining halls,” Docktor says. “It means taking the responsibility of staying on top of one’s medication, exercise and normal sleep routines, all of which can be tough when you are first experiencing campus life and a shift in routine with less structure. But college students living with IBD need to go the extra mile to maintain these routines and always try to put their health first to avoid flare-ups or complications. With education, communication and anticipation, potential roadblocks can be avoided, making sure your college experience is about more than attending school with IBD.”
For more information on how Boston Children’s treats children with IBD, or to make an appointment with one of our IBD specialists, please call us 617-355-6058 or visit the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center website.