Talking to kids about your illness

Talking with your kids about a serious illness can seem almost as difficult as battling the disease.

Connect at your child's developmental level. While some parents prefer a family meeting to discuss a difficult topic, be certain to meet individually with each child to allow you to engage youngsters at their level. Take their lead in when, what, and how you communicate.

Find that delicate balance of giving just enough information. Parents often overload kids with too many details, leaving youngsters confused and anxious. Keep your explanations simple and concise.

Continue the conversation. It takes kids a while to fully understand the effect of a serious disease on them and on their family. Periodically go back to your child and let them know what's going on with the illness.

Acknowledge your own feelings. Many parents are reluctant to express their own anxieties, anger and uncertainties for fear of scaring their children. But their verbalization of their feelings, within limits, gives kids permission to express what they are really experiencing and is emotionally healthy for youngsters.

Focus on routine events. At least until the teen years, kids are pretty egocentric. They will be very concerned about "how will this affect me?" This may seem insensitive and selfish, but it's developmentally normal. Try to reassure kids as much as possible that you will maintain a regular family routine.

Dayton Daily News