Advice for Parents who have a child with an ill loved one
- Children will naturally be curious about the illness of their loved one. If you avoid talking about the illness with your children, they may become fearful about what is going on and begin to think the worst.
- Parents know that it is very hard to keep secrets in a family. Children seem to have an uncanny ability to learn what is going on. Directly sharing updates about the medical progress will teach your child that they do not need to look for information from other sources, which can be misinterpreted.
- Try to talk to your child in simple language they can understand. You do not need to tell them every detail, but just enough to answer their questions and calm their fears.
- Give your child permission to express all of his or her feelings about their sibling or parent’s illness. Children often feel many different emotions in response to an illness in a family including anger that the illness is hurting someone they love, unrealistic fears that they may also “catch” the disease, and guilt that their loved one became sick and not them.
- When a child is the ill family member special considerations should be made to help preserve the sibling bond. Relationships between brothers and sisters normally involve some degree of competition and rivalry. Explain to all of your children that an illness does not prevent a child from being a child and siblings from being siblings. Encourage an open and honest dialogue between the siblings about their feelings.
- Share your own feelings with your child to let them know that you also are upset with what is happening. Explain to them, however, the many special ways you handle your feelings.
- Try to plan for some consistency in your well child’s life. Children feel safer when structure is provided and things appear to be somewhat normal. Perhaps a friend or relative can take him to his game, or sit and do homework with her.
- If you are spending a lot of time in the hospital with your ill child or spouse, call your other child/children each day and ask what is happening in his/her life. Send notes home with a family member or friend who visits at the hospital so your child/children at home knows he/she is important, too.
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