How to explain your child’s illness to them

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As parents, our instinct is to protect our children from anything negative, even if it is something that affects them directly. Somehow we think that being a parent imbues us with a mystical magical quality to zap away experiences that will adversely affect our children’s quality of life.

When it comes to illnesses, sadly, our children are no more immune to it than any other human being. The mantle of parenthood requires us to explain things to them. When your child has new and complicated medical needs to keep in mind, life can suddenly get very hard for them. And as their parent, you’re going to hate to see them struggle! No matter their age, no matter if they’re a toddler or a teen, you’re going to want to step in to do everything for them. 

But being able to take a step back, and ensure that they can take care of themselves, whilst also receiving plenty of support from you, is the key to helping them adjust! So, with the points below, we hope to push you towards the right path for both you and your child. 

Be Honest with Them

The first thing to do is to be honest with your child about what’s happening to them. They need to know if they’re going to be taking care of themselves in a different way to their friends, and if they’re going to be doing so for the rest of their life. 

Kids understand a lot more than we give them credit for, and even when the future seems so far away, preparing them for it from the get-go is key to helping them cope. Tell them as much as you know, let them talk to the doctor about their problems without you being their mouthpiece, and make sure you never ever lie to them. 

Give Them Some Responsibility

All in all, it’s good to give them some responsibility. They need to learn to take care of themselves, and kids learn better when they’re young compared to any other time in their life!

So, for example, maybe it’s up to them to remind and talk you through ordering them a new pair of glasses from, or it’s up to them to keep the date of their next eye test in mind. This ensures they’re involved in taking care of their medical needs, even in the simplest of ways, and makes sure they’re never feeling pushed around by the adults around them. It helps them to get more comfortable. 

Never Make Them Feel Bad

And of course, you need to make sure you’re never making them feel bad about what they’re going through. Don’t compare them to others, and take their new needs into account – this is just as much a period of adjustment for you as it is for them, and they need you to be gentle and supportive with them. 

Let them cry if they need to, and let them be afraid and tell you about it. They don’t have much in the way of life experience right now, so this is potentially the worst thing they’ve ever gone through, and they need you there to pick them back up! 

Your child has medical needs, and they need to be able to cope with them. What are you going to do? Show them the way forward, and always be around to catch them when they slip up! That is the game of parenting.


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