- Why Do I Need To Tell My Children Anything?
- Do I Have To Tell My Children By Myself?
- General Guidelines For Telling All Underage Children About Your Health Condition
- Guidelines For Telling Children Who Are Toddlers Through Age 3*
- Guidelines For Telling Children Age 3 Through 7
- Guidelines For Telling Children Age 7 Through 13
- Guidelines For Telling Adolescents About Your Diagnosis
- What Other Tips Would Help My Children?
- When To Seek Professional Help For Your Child
- If You Have A Communicable Disease Such As HIV/AIDS
- Additional Resources
Children: How To Tell About Your Condition And Why
EACH OF THE FOLLOWING SUBJECTS ARE DISCUSSED IN OTHER SECTIONS OF THIS ARTICLE, INCLUDING AGE SPECIFIC AND DISEASE SPECIFIC INFORMATION
If you have children, it is advisable to tell them about your condition as soon as you can for a variety of reasons, including the following:
- Children have a sense that lets them know when something is in the air. If you don't tell them, they will likely assume it is something they did wrong or somehow caused.
- Children will likely hear about it sooner or later in any event. If there is more than one child, they may even conspire to figure out what is going on. Their putting together bits and pieces of information can lead to scary, wrong conclusions.
- Conventional wisdom is that the best parenting is not shielding children from life but teaching them how to deal with whatever life throws at you.
Tell children as soon as you can. This does not mean, however, that you can't give yourself some time to adjust to your diagnosis first or wait for the results of initial tests.
When deciding what to tell children:
- Consider the child's age, the individual child, and what seems right to you. Consider the same factors when deciding whether to prepare a child for any likely change in your appearance.
- Always use the name of your health condition. Children will likely hear the name at some time in any event so it is better to hear it from you..
- Let your children know that your disease is not something that they can catch, and neither can your spouse or significant other.
- Warn children who have access to the internet about misinformation and scary information that doesn't apply to you that they may find. It is preferable if the child tells you about anything he or she learns about your condition soyou can keep information accurate.
Before showing any changes in your body to a child, find out if the child wants to see.
Reassure your children that no matter what happens, they are loved and will be taken care of. If it appropriate to your situation, talk about death with an emphasis on reassuring each child that he or she will be okay. If you believe in an afterlife, let the child know.
Expect to repeat what you tell a child, particularly as changes occur.
Suggest that the child come to you when he or she wants more information rather than ask someone else or do his or her own research.
Listen to your child's fears.
Watch for changes in your child which indicate difficulty coping.
Coordinate what you tell a child with your spouse or significant other so the child gets a consistent story. It helps if other adults close to the child are informed of what you tell your child so the child doesn't become confused.
Tell each child's teachers about your health condition so they can be alert to problems that may appear at school as a result. Sometimes withdrawal from peer relationships indicates depression. Counseling may be needed.
- For information about helping children cope, click here.
- Keep your drugs away from young children. Teach older children not to take your drugs. Dispose of drugs safely. To learn about how to take drugs appropriately, including how to store and dispose of them safely, click here.