Telling children about any serious illness or disease is not easy. The best approach is a direct one as children, even very young ones, often sense that something is not right. Their fears need to tackled and honesty is the best policy.
The amount of information you should give them depends on their age and how grown up they are. Being honest is one thing but giving them all the information at once may be too much. Try spreading it out a bit to ease the shock of the inevitable outcome.
Questions can be answered on a ‘need to know basis’ initially but as more hospital vists are undertaken and the patient is unwell at times then more detail needs to be offered. Getting the same question over and over again from young children can be difficult at times but it should be realised that this is a normal part of their development.
Teenagers may have a particularly hard time as they now have to cope with additional strong emotions and extra responsibilies, as well as the usual emotions which are part of their development into adults. They may need to turn to others outside the family if they find it difficult to talk to family members e.g.family friend, teacher or counsellor.
Grief raises its head everywhere and it is important to reasure children that it is not their fault that this illness has happened. It seems to be common amongst children that they feel they are to blame and these feelings could last for some time.
Additionally, they may need to be put right about what they have heard from friends and other people as it may not be correct.
Children need to be dealt with sensitively but honestly. But manage the communication of information according to age, maturity and circumstances.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Paul Curran, CEO of Cuzcom Internet Publishing Group and webmaster at Information on Mesothelioma, providing articles and information on asbestos and mesothelioma.