“My son has been in the hospital more than in school this year. Up until now I haven’t been thinking about school, I’ve just been focusing on keeping him alive.”
It may be less stressful to ease slowly back into the school setting, with its physical, emotional and social demands. Work with the teachers, counselors and administrators to get what you feel you need. Your medical team can be a resource and act as advocates on your behalf.
Some suggestions for easing the return to school.
- Have a preparation conference before your child returns.
- Think about what setting changes may be needed, such as seating placement. Make sure your child knows where the nurse’s office is and understands they may go there when they feel tired or need an escape. Identify other resources on campus that your child may to go to when they are running on empty or need some help emotionally in coping
- Find out if there are resources to start school at home at first and move towards a school setting.
- Identify what the teachers and classmates may need to be prepared and able to offer support, not isolation, ridicule or misunderstanding.
- Consider setting smaller, short term goals that will help you gauge your child’s readiness, capacity and energy level.
- Inform the school of special considerations that should be shared with classmates, their parents and others that may come into contact with your child (e.g., a suppressed immune system and the need for your child to be kept free from exposure to colds and infections at school).
- Consider starting a ritual or letting your child choose a comfort object or ritual that helps them leave you and be away from you. This is an adjustment for many kids, regardless of age. It may be of comfort to both of you. For example, you may send a photo of you with them; a small item they can have in their pocket or backpack when they need a “dose “of you; or a note in their lunch or pocket that lets them know you are thinking of them. Use the Kissing Hand book ritual of telling each other your love is always with them no matter where you are.
- Always feel entitled to a conference at school and seek the counsel of your medical team as well if things do not go as you all hope.
It may be best to build your way toward more involvement rather than a full immersion into complete days. This will allow you to set your child (and their fellow students and teachers) up for a successful experience with a positive outcome. The recovering student needs to re-establish themselves as part of the school community and the time that takes will be different for each child. Desire, ability, motivation and will influence each child’s transition. Being able to set educational goals, achievements and milestones for completion are all excellent motivators and can serve as positive reinforcements for your child’s growing efforts.