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Back to School

Rachel Fearnley
Back to School

It seems a long time since I was writing about the start of the long school holidays here in the UK and already the new term has started. Children, parents and school staff will have all experienced different feelings as the weeks have passed by. I imagine for some children there has been a sense of excitement, the thought of going back to school to see friends and to get back into the routine of the rhythm of the school week and term. I guess for an equal number there has been the feeling of not wanting to go back (for many different and varied reasons) and the feeling of unhappiness at the prospect of a new term. Children whose parents have a life-limiting illness are likely to be facing all sorts of mixed emotions and feelings. The worries about leaving their parents and being away from the home for big chunks of the day combined with possibly looking forward to getting back into a ‘normal’ routine. I would imagine that for a lot of these children there are many different worries that maybe their peers won’t experience. The worries about what is happening at home while they are away – how is their parent? Are they managing on their own? Have they felt well enough to make themselves some lunch or get a drink? In addition to worries about being at school – what do I tell my friends when they ask about our holiday? What do I say to teachers when they ask about what I have done? How do I tell my teacher that I can’t concentrate in my lessons because I am thinking about mum or dad? All these worries (and more) are quite likely to be very real for our children who are living with the uncertainty that parental life-limiting illness brings. How equipped are schools and school staff to support them? Are there policies and procedures in place to ensure all the staff know what to do to support these children (and importantly feel comfortable and confident to support them?). Living with a parent who is dying is a massive thing for children to have to try and cope with and manage. Schools can have a big role here to help support them. I wonder how much is in place to help support these potentially vulnerable children. I would be interested to hear your experiences – either as child / young person who has been in that situation, a parent or a member of the school staff – what support is there and what support do you think is needed?  

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