Your child’s education during serious illness

A serious illness can mean long absences from school – here are some ways to keep up with your child’s education during treatment and how to manage their return.

Kura / school is a big and important part of your child’s life. It provides structure, purpose, learning, opportunities to develop social and communication skills and, really importantly for tamariki / children with serious illness, a focus on the future.

A serious illness diagnosis and treatment may mean long absences from kura / school - weeks, and even months. This can make it difficult for tamariki / children to keep up with their work and keep in touch with their friends.

Talk to your child’s care team in hōhipere / hospital, your child’s teacher(s) and the school’s leadership team to decide a strategy to keep up with your child’s kuranga / education while they’re going through treatment. They can also help your taitamaiti / child return and settle back into kura / school when the time comes.

During treatment

At times during treatment your taitamaiti / child may be too unwell to do schoolwork. They’ll also probably miss their friends and the kura / school environment. Here are some tips that can help during this time.

  • The hōhipere / hospital will have a teacher on staff who can arrange for schoolwork to be sent to your taitamaiti / child. This teacher can also help your taitamaiti / child work on their schoolwork and lessons.
  • Depending upon your child's education stage, it may be important for them to do some work every day, if they can, so they don’t fall too far behind.
  • Consult with your child's teacher(s) at kura / school and hōhipere / hospital staff (like the teacher and social worker) to decide your child's needs and develop an action plan.
  • Encourage your child’s friends to write letters, postcards, send text messages or connect on social media. These messages can really cheer up your taitamaiti / child and keep them up to date with what’s happening at kura / school.

Returning to kura / school

When treatment is finished (and perhaps during treatment too), your taitamaiti / child will be able to attend kura / school. The prospect of returning to kura / school can be exciting (seeing friends again) but also daunting for your taitamaiti / child. They might be worried about the way they look (especially while their hair grows back), whether their friends have forgotten them or if they can catch up with schoolwork and fit in again.

Most mātua / parents and caregivers will have real concerns about the return to kura / school because it’s natural to want to protect our tamariki from harm or hurt. Will my taitamaiti / child be up to it physically? What about the risk of infection when their immune system is still recovering? Will my taitamaiti / child be teased because of the way they look?

You may need some help from your care team to move forward here. A big part of your child's recovery from serious illness, and you and your family's too, is to find a routine again so you can all resume activities that may have been put on hold. Here are some tips that may be helpful:

  • Talk to your child's teacher(s) about the return to kura / school, discuss what has happened to your taitamaiti / child and provide information to help them support your taitamaiti (the hōhipere / hospital social worker can provide resources). It helps if teachers understand the treatment your taitamaiti / child has received and side effects they might experience.
  • If your taitamaiti / child can’t return to kura / school full time, send them along for a few hours a day or even just to enjoy lunchtime with friends. This will ease them back into the routine and help friends adjust too.
  • Ask your child's friends to be supportive and to stay close.
  • Make your kura / school aware of needs your taitamaiti / child may have. They might want to wear a hat or bandanna for a while or be unable to take part in sports.
  • Be sure teachers are keeping an eye out for physical or emotional issues that may develop upon a return to kura / school.
  • Ask a member of staff to be available for your taitamaiti / child if they need to talk to someone at kura / school.