Special concerns for your preschooler with cancer

Special concerns for your preschooler with cancer

In hospital, your child may become used to interacting with more adults than children and they may need more support from their early childhood teachers.

Key points to remember

  • in hospital, young children can become used to interacting with more adults than children and they may need more support from early childhood teachers
  • encourage your child's teachers to use inclusive strategies to support your child in both large and small groups
  • encourage teachers to set up a medical play area to allow your child to play through their experiences of illness and treatment
  • teachers have reported that young children with cancer experience less teasing and embarrassment than in school children

A preschooler writing

This is part of a whole section on education when a child has cancer for parents. We also have a section for teachers.

Set up a medical play area

It can be a good idea to encourage your child's teachers to set up a medical play area in their classroom. This can allow your child to play through their experiences of illness and treatment. A medical play area can allow them to further develop their understanding and express their emotions about the changes to their world.

Remind teachers to give your child time and privacy as they may not want to talk about or play their experiences at first (or at all).

Protecting your child from infections

Young children recovering from cancer treatment are especially vulnerable to infections. Make sure your child's teachers understand the importance of contacting you if there are any children at your preschool who have measles or chickenpox. It is also important that other parents let your preschool know if their children have been in contact with anyone with these diseases. See: Measles and chickenpox in children with low resistance to infection.

There is a letter template on this website that your child's preschool can download and personalise. They can use it to let other parents know about the importance of informing you about these diseases.

Ask your child's teachers to use inclusive strategies

Talk to your child's preschool teachers about using inclusive strategies to support your preschooler with cancer in both large and small groups. Ask teachers to encourage your child to actively take part in conversations and in group activities.

Teachers have reported that generally, preschool children experience less teasing and embarrassment than children in school.

Ask teachers to keep an eye on your child during outdoor play

Ask your child's teachers to keep a close eye on your child during outdoor play and physical activities. It may take them a while to regain their confidence and coordination. Younger children may also not understand that their friend cannot 'play rough'. Ask them to keep an eye out for signs of fatigue in your child.

A cartoon family

Learning support

In some cases, young children with cancer may be eligible for help from the Ministry of Education Learning Support Early Intervention Service.

The service works with families and early childhood educators who ask for help when they are concerned about the learning and development of young children. This may concern a child's developmental delay, disability, behaviour and/or communication difficulties.

The service can work with children from birth until they start school.

The early intervention teams work closely with specialists from the Ministry of Health to ensure children who need extra support can access it.

Specialists can include:

  • audiologists
  • physiotherapists
  • paediatricians
  • dieticians
  • occupational therapists

Find out more about the Learning Support Early Intervention Service on the Ministry of Education website.

This page last reviewed 20 August 2018.
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