No matter how young or old a child is, each child handles illness and treatment in unique ways.
You may feel like there is so much to talk about with your child that you don’t know where to begin. You may also have difficulty getting your child to open up and share how he or she is feeling and coping with the news about the illness.
The following are tips that may help you talk with your child about illness and treatment:
- Let your child know you will always love him or her no matter what he or she may might say or think. Repeat this often.
- Use comforting language and a tone of voice that expresses confidence and warmth.
- If you don’t feel completely comfortable talking about goals and hopes, take a few moments to think about how you have talked about other difficult issues with your child and draw upon that experience. Try to use those same ways to engage your child so he or she feels safe.
- Trust your instincts to help you determine how much to say and when. The right moments will appear and when they do, you can talk with your child lovingly and confidently.
- If your timing is off, just be patient. Your child will let you in when he or she is both able to talk and needs to do so.
- Young children naturally focus on more concrete information. Make sure your child understands the plan for today and what’s going to happen in the next few hours or the next couple of days.
- Older kids often try to go it alone. They may find it easier to talk to peers with similar medical conditions. Talk to your child’s medical team about appropriate chat rooms and making contact with other children with similar experiences.
- Reassure your child that you will do whatever you can to prevent pain and help him or her cope with any changes.
- Ask to meet with a child life specialist (at the hospital or clinic), who can help your child talk about feelings and fears, through conversation and/or play therapy.