What do I tell my friends and classmates at school?

  • Talking about your health condition with your friends at school is something a lot of young people think about. Maybe you’re asking yourself questions such as:Delicia-creating-claymations

    • Who do I tell?
    • How do I bring up the subject?
    • What do I actually want them to know?
    • What if they treat me differently because of what I’ve told them?

    Do I tell them or not?

    What your friends need to know about your health is totally your decision. You might change your mind at different stages along the way. But a lot of young people say that when it was time to go back to school after a long period of absence, it did help when their friends and classmates knew about their condition. If you have decided to tell your friends, you can prepare yourself in different ways.

    “…And so then for me it’s better to be safe than sorry; I tell my friends what my condition is in case something does happen to me; they know what is wrong with me and they can call the teacher or whatever, just for safety reasons.”

    (Sally, Keeping Connected - Identity, social connection and education for young people living with chronic illness)

    How will it help if they know?

    Maybe you need to change your timetable or work requirements because of your treatment. You may be tired or have different concentration levels at school. If your looks have changed as a result of your treatment you may need to be prepared to explain what’s happened.

    If your friends know about your health condition, they can:

    • let teachers know when you’re worn out
    • collect worksheets or take notes for you if you’re away
    • help ‘fill in the gaps’ if you’ve been away for a while
    • listen to you and make you laugh when you’re not feeling so great
    • keep an eye on you to make sure you’re not feeling overwhelmed at school
    • understand why you may be absent from school on a regular basis.

    Knowing someone close to them who has a health condition might also encourage your friends to learn more about certain illnesses.

    Get some support

    Attend a support group for children and young people with a health condition such as ChIPS or join an online support group such as Livewire. Ask others in the group how they handled the same situation.

    Put it on paper

    If you need help to decide how to tell people you could;

    • write it down
    • read it back to yourself
    • read it aloud
    • read it to a friend, family member or teacher whose opinion you trust.

    This will help you to work out what you actually want to say.

    Read stories from other students

    Visit the Chronic Illness Alliance website and listen to other young people talking about how their schools helped them adjust in practical ways.

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    Prepare the school

    Groups such as Camp Quality have education programs specifically for schools. Think about inviting them to perform shows such as Camp Quality puppets at your school.