Telling your friends about your illness

When you are diagnosed with an illness, it can be hard to tell your friends as no one wants to be seen as different.

Who you share this information with is really up to you, but most kids tell us, that once they summon up the courage to talk about it, it’s helpful and becomes a positive experience.

If your best friends know about your illness and how it impacts you, they can support you on those days when you’re not feeling your best and can’t play during recess or do sport. They can become your best advocates.

There are lots of ways to tell your friends.

  • You can just tell your best friend if you have a special one. Make sure they know if it’s a secret or if they can tell other people.
  • You can tell a few of your closest friends. Remember to let your friends ask questions. If you don’t know the answer, tell them that. If you start to get upset, just say something like “can we talk about something else now?”
  • You can tell your entire class during News or Home Room announcements.
  • You can ask your teacher tell the class.

Your parents can help you with this. The school counsellor can also help by providing some background information to staff or to the class.

However you decide to go about it, remember it’s important you are inculded in the decision making and have some say about who’s told and how much information is given out.

Here’s a couple of scripts that might help start the conversation.

You telling your friends

“Guess what? You know how I’ve been a bit off lately, well, the doctor told me I’ve got [fill in the gap].

That’s why I don’t want to play outside anymore because when I move my joints all hurt and I can’t sit on the floor or rumble.

It’s like having really bad flu or a headache all over your body.

I have to take this medication that makes me feel [insert side effects if you have any] and will miss some school for the next few weeks because I still have a bunch of tests and stuff…”

Your teacher telling your classmates

This script is for primary school.

“The doctors have told Sasha that she has an illness called juvenile arthritis. Arthritis in kids is different to arthritis in older people, so it is not like the arthritis that your grandparent has. It makes your joints sore and stiff and doing physical things can be painful. So if you see Sasha sitting out in dance practice or not doing PE, you’ll know why.

Doing activities like sitting on the floor or getting up from the floor can be painful, so Sasha might want to sit on a chair when everyone else is on the floor. Everyone here is smart enough to know that Sasha isn’t getting special treatment, instead it helps Sasha with her stiff joints.

On some days Sasha might be fine but on other days, she might not be feeling like doing much. This doesn’t mean that Sascha is pretending or trying to get attention. She’ll tell us if she can do the usual activities with the class or needs to do something else.

The other thing to remember is that kids with arthritis have to take medicine and sometimes this makes you feel a bit sick in the stomach or really tired. Remember to be respectful and considerate. Sasha has said it’s OK to ask her questions about what’s going on for her, but don’t overdo it guys. Give her some space and a bit of time to settle in to her new pattern.”

Last updated Monday 26th February 2024