How Parents Should Help Their Kids Understand Their Illnesses

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If you're a mom or dad, you probably feel like being a part of your child's life and being there for them are a couple of the biggest and most important things you'll ever do. You helped bring this child into the world. As you see them grow into a little person with their own personality, you cannot help but marvel at how the species perpetuates itself.

You probably want to be strong for your kids. You must bring in the money to support them, putting clothes on their backs, meals on the table, and a roof above their head. They might not appreciate it when they are young, but when they are a little bit older, they will, and they will thank you for it.

If you are not in the best of health, though, it can be hard knowing what to say to your child. They might regard you as Superman or Superwoman, and seeing you in a condition of infirmity may be difficult for them to comprehend. You might struggle to say the right thing to them or get them to understand what is happening to you.

Let's talk about some things you can say to your child if you're dealing with a serious or even a life-threatening illness or injury.

You Can Explain that Life is Random

There are thousands of illnesses or injuries that can threaten your life or impact your health. You might develop malignant trachea neoplasms or all kinds of other ailments.

If you are a parent, and you develop a condition or sustain a life-threatening injury, that might come as a shock to your child who previously saw you as invincible. You will have to think about what to say to them, and what you choose to tell them will probably depend on how old they are.

One concept that you can convey to them is that life is random and that sometimes, things happen that you cannot control. That's true even for you, the parent they idolize. You have to try to explain that things occur that you can't change, and they can't either.

You can pick the language that you use based on how old they are and how much you think they can understand about what's happening. If they are older and ask about your condition's specifics, you can tell them if you think that will help. If they are too young for that, you can try to convey that mommy or daddy is sick, and the doctors are doing everything they can to make you well again.

You don't need to wax philosophical, but you do need to try to get them to understand that you can't always control events sometimes. That's a critical lesson that everyone needs to learn, and this is probably that moment for your child.

Address Any Questions They Have, But Do It Tactfully

You should also tell them that they should feel free to ask any questions about what's wrong with you, and you will try to answer them truthfully. You should not try to conceal it from them if you have a serious illness or life-changing injury, but you can still be tactful about what you choose to say. You don't need to get too graphic, for instance, if the child is still very young.

If there's a possibility that you will die, you should tell the child. You should answer them truthfully if they bring it up because if the worst does happen, they will have to deal with that. You don't want to die knowing that you told your child you would live and that you lied to them.

Include Them Rather than Isolating Them

It's usually a mistake to conceal what's happening from your child. There are some conversations about what's happening to you that you should have only with other adults, but it's not the best move to shut the child out of the room anytime you start talking about medical matters.

If the child feels included instead of isolated, they can share in the pain that you and the rest of the family feel. That pain is unavoidable, but if you include the child, at least they will not have to deal with it on their own.

If There is Anything They Can Do to Help, Let Them

Your child might ask if there is anything they can do to help make you well. Even if there isn't anything, it's not a bad idea to make up something productive that they might do.

If that means keeping their rooms clean and eating all their vegetables, that's fine. If it means making you a card to cheer you up, that might work as well. If you can devise a project that will occupy them, that's better than having them mope around and fixating on all of the negative emotions.

Reassure Them That You Will Always Love Them

You should also tell them repeatedly that you will always love them, no matter what happens. If it becomes obvious that you will not survive whatever is happening with you, you don't have to explicitly tell the child that. You can just tell them that you will always cherish them, and you'll always be there with them, in spirit, if not in the flesh.

Children can intuitively understand death at a young age. Of course, you hope that it doesn't come to that, but once the child grasps the concept, they can start to process it, even if it will be tremendously difficult for them.

You can also tell the child that others will be there to care for them, whether that will be their other parent, grandparents, their aunts and uncles, or whoever else it may be. It will not be easy for your child to get past either your death or a serious, life-changing illness, but you owe it to them to guide them through it as best you can. 

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