Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Talking to kids about a parent's illness


This past weekend, when my brother in law had a heart attack, I was greatly concerned about my nephews. One is 17 and the other, who is 11, has several disabilities which make coping more difficult. Although there are articles written about how to talk to children about a parent's illness, the important thing I found is to communicate in a way where children and teens are told the information as they can handle it at an age appropriate level while being reassured that their day to day needs will be taken care of. As this cartoon emphasizes, it's important to remember that children and teens may put very different meaning to the words you say. Taking the time to make sure that they haven't misunderstood what was said is important. Some children, depending on their ages, will blame themselves for their parents' illnesses. Others will be concerned about issues you might not even think about. My youngest nephew expressed the most concern to me that his father had to stay in the hospital, away from home for a number of nights, because "the hospital is scary". Because of the number of medical tests my nephew has had during his short life, his father's hospitalization triggered his anxieties. Explaining that his father would be taken well care of by the nurses and doctors seemed to help lower his anxiety level.

[visual description: In the first box of a cartoon, in front of a castle, a cartoon figure says "Raphunzel, sweet Raphunzel, let down your hair". In the second box, a giant rabbit hare is dropped and lands on the cartoon character.]

3 comments:

SlingoGal said...

Kids are pretty good at getting through this stuff if they feel safe and have someone to talk to. The problem is everyone is running around and sometimes forget to do that.

Angeline said...

Whenever an adult close to the kid is sick, other adults around the kid only remembers to tell the kid "be a good boy/girl, so and so is sick." and that's pretty much the end of it....

but kids are smarter and more affectionate than any of us can imagine.

let them know what exactly happen, instead of saying, "ah, you are too young to know", and you'll be suprised that they may handle the situation even better than most adults, if you communicated the situation in the right way to them.

Ruth said...

Thank you both for your comments and stopping by!