When a loved one in the family is in the hospital or dealing with a chronic illness it can be hard to know what to say to the youngest family members. It’s natural to want to “protect” them by not telling them or talking to them, but chances are the kids already know that something is going on. An honest conversation can help to ease any misunderstanding they may have.
Here are some important areas to cover when navigating a discussion about the illness or hospitalization of a loved one:
- Honesty – Use words and descriptions that are appropriate for their age. If they are older they may ask specific details about the illness. It’s good to call the diagnosis by name. They may come back at a later date with other questions or even ask the same questions more than once.
- "Can I catch it?" – Children often have the fear that they can “catch” illnesses. They need to know, if in fact it isn’t a contagious disease, that they can not catch the illness from their loved one by being near them, hugging them and visiting with them. This is particularly important if it is a brother or sister who is ill.
- "Did I cause this?" – Many ....