If a loved one is dying, what should you tell your children?
My mom died of cancer when I was nine years old. For reasons I still don’t fully understand, my stepdad and my older siblings never told me how sick she was. All I knew was that she spent most of the day asleep in her room, and I was rarely allowed to see her. Then, one day my 19-year-old brother Mike said, “I’ve got bad news. Mom’s dead.” Needless to say, it was a blow. But what made it even harder was that no one had given me the opportunity to prepare myself.
That’s why I encourage parents to take a more proactive approach with their children:
- In an age-appropriate way, have a conversation with your children about terminal illness. Let them ask questions and express their feelings honestly.
- Keep the dialogue open going forward. Further conversation will give you a chance to walk with your kids through their emotional ups and downs. And there will probably be plenty of that, so let your kids know it’s okay to be sad. In fact, don’t be afraid to cry with them. When they see you express emotion, they’ll feel more comfortable expressing theirs.
- Never hesitate to reach out for support from family, friends, or a professional. If you’re not sure where to start, speak with one of our counselors at 1-800-A-FAMILY (232-6459).