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Parent with cancer
Old 02-21-2018, 09:06 PM
 
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One of my students' parents informed me today that she (the parent) has stage 4 breast cancer. She is a single mom (divorced amicably and dad lives nearby) and her family is out of state. She emailed me to let me know in case it affected her daughter's emotions/behavior at school, and also to let me know she may have more absences and other family members may be picking her up at times.

My heart just breaks for them both. She is a 1st grader and mom is only a few years older than me (I'm 30). Obviously I will keep an eye on the girl and told the mom I can have the school counselor check in with her daughter on occasion. I want to do more to support them but am not sure what more I could really do. Anyone had a student's parent with cancer? Anyone have any suggestions?


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Old 02-22-2018, 05:36 AM
 
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Might seem small but when I was being treated for cancer, I loved getting little notes. You donít have to say much...thinking of you is fine, but it does make you feel less lonely.

Do you have an email address for her? If so, perhaps send her a photo of the child doing an activity from time to time. Chances are sheíll be really tired and not up to doing things with her daughter.

Itís kind of you to be thinking in this way.
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Cards
Old 02-22-2018, 03:26 PM
 
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Maybe give the child a chance to make her mom a card each week when time allows. This will help daughter and mother.
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Old 02-23-2018, 05:50 AM
 
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This is definitely a difficult situation. I would certainly commend Mom for sharing the news and keeping the daughter's interest paramount.

As for suggestions/ideas, some would depend on the "culture" of the school and community. In our rural area, where parents often know each other and there are very few secrets, it would not be unusual for the there to be community (and therefore class) support. A question I might have is whether or not the mom wants her daughter's classmates to know...

Sometimes our value is to create normality so the flip side of this is not to overreact. That can be a tough call, but it sounds like there is a support system in place because she's said other family members will be picking up the daughter. It could well be that school is the one place where things are "normal" for the daughter. Do not underestimate that contribution.

I once had the opportunity to work with a student whose father had died of cancer. She was quite surprised when I told her that we had something in common--I lost my Dad when I was exactly her age (seven and in second grade). I was quite surprised at the adult conversation she had with me--clearly, her family had prepared her as well as possible. We talked about our feelings...including the fact that people want you to be happy, but sometimes you just have to be sad. I think my contribution was simply that she knew she was not the only person to experience this and her emotions were "okay." I also exacted a "promise" from her that if she ever wanted to talk we could do that and how she could cause that to happen. Unfortunately, she left our district shortly after, but I hope the best for her and want to believe that she'll remember the connection.

My point is that it is often the simplest things we do that mean the most. It's great that we want to support people in situations like this, but it's also very important to follow their lead.

Lastly, thank you for caring. Caring can be "hard" because we share the pain. Take care of yourself too.
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Old 02-25-2018, 08:46 AM
 
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I have a student with a parent (dad) with cancer. The student is a little older, but it seems to help her just knowing the we teachers know. She gives me an update every day as to how the parent is doing and what they are doing. This seems to help her. Maybe just having someone to listen.


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