Talking Terminal Illness with Children
Having to tell a child you’re terminally ill isn’t something that’s typically covered in the parenting handbook. It’s hard for children to learn their parents are dying at any age, but as a young child, it can be devastating. This will be a difficult conversation to have no matter how you go about it, but there are a few things to keep in mind that can make it a little easier.
Be the One to Tell Them- This isn’t something anyone looks forward to doing, but don’t put it off so long that they overhear the news from someone else. It’s important they hear this from you in a setting that allows you to answer whatever questions they may have.
Let Them Help- As you’re going through the various treatments and procedures, try to include them in your care. Let them get you a glass of water or a pair of slippers when you need it. Finding age-appropriate jobs for them to do will help them feel involved.
Be Clear- When you break the news, it’s okay to be direct with your child and let them know the name of the disease and what the expected side effects are. This will help prepare them for the coming months and gives them more clarity.
Create a Support System- Your child will need a support system of people who they can talk to about what they’re feeling. Let their friends, teachers, and other family members know what’s happening so they can be there to offer care and support.
Keep Their Schedule- This news will come as a huge shock to them, and one way to help them cope is to maintain their schedule as much as possible. Although you might not be able to take them to all their activities, ask friends and family if they can help take care of chauffeuring them around.