Gilly’s son Jacob wrote “7 Ways To Help A Child Deal With A Parent Being Seriously Sick,” which Gilly posted on her blog. It can be found here: BRAINSTORM
Thank you Jacob, for being the spark that lit the flame today.
3. Comfort: Friends, parents, and other community supports fill an important role, and need to show the child that people also care about how they are feeling - even though they’re not the identified patient. You can be sure that your child is feeling a lot, and that much of it is complicated and conflicted!
4. Keep them in the loop: Don’t do mental gymnastics to protect them. My good friend and colleague, Steve Kinsella, LCSW (www.GotTherapist.com) is fond of repeating, “A family is only as sick as the secrets they keep.” It’s important that if, for instance, a family member is suddenly hospitalized, there is an appropriate explanation given to the child. They know quite well that people don’t normally disappear from their lives for 7 to 10 days without a reason attached, and if you plan on fabricating a story in an attempt to protect their innocence, be careful. As I’ve mentioned, children are perceptive and, more than likely, your child already knows there’s something that’s not been quite right lately. If you tell little white lies now, they’re going to resent it later, creating a much bigger issue - trust - than knowing would have done. Better to give an age-appropriate explanation that saves them the gritty details but is 100% truthful. Of course, this also requires swallowing your pride.
5: Time to think: Give them their space and don’t hover. They’re going to need some time alone to think by themselves, sort it all out and to let it all settle in. They’re grappling with some pretty big-picture questions here. Give them room to do it.