Tips to help children and teens cope with cancer in their families

Susan Stephens, MSW, LCSW, OSW-C, and Jennifer Boughton, MSW, LCSW, social workers at New Jersey’s Rutgers Cancer Institute, the state’s only National Cancer Institute Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center with with RWJBarnanabs Health, get expert advice on helping your child cope during the upcoming school year.

Talk to teachers and school staff about what’s going on.

School is an important part of any child’s life. Teachers and other school personnel play an important role in maintaining a sense of stability and normalcy for students. In addition, the school community plays a central role in the lives of some families. It is important to notify your child’s school of the medical situation in your family so that teachers can be aware of changes in student behavior such as decreased attention and activity or emotional outbursts. .


Maintain open communication with your children and teens at home.

A child’s understanding of cancer depends on their age, maturity, and experience with the disease. When someone they know is diagnosed with cancer, they can have a range of reactions and emotions. Talking honestly about cancer builds trust and increases the likelihood that your child will come to you with questions or concerns. Not knowing what is going on or how to deal with it can be very scary.

Help your child predict how their life might need to change.

As family routines change, children need to know how that will affect their lives. In some cases, your child’s normal routine may be disrupted, including changing who will take them to school, prepare dinner, or take them to after-school activities. You may also need to let them know about any expected changes in appearance or behavior (hair loss, fatigue). Open communication can help family members deal with any changes that lie ahead.

Seek support if needed.

If your family needs psychosocial support, there are specialist teams available to understand how cancer affects a person and their loved ones. At Rutgers Cancer Institute facilities, social workers can help find strategies to help patients and families adapt and manage concerns, and provide personalized counseling services. and families, stress management, and re-entry planning. Enrollment during and after treatment includes educating school staff about Childhood Cancer and Sickle Cell Disease as well as helping to develop appropriate 504 facilities or an Individualized Education Plan ( IEP) related to the patient’s medical needs.

Source: Newswise

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