Home > Children > Talking to Children About Terminal Illness

Talking to Children About Terminal Illness

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 28 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Children Illness Terminally Ill Death

Until it becomes a part of their lives very few children are familiar with the idea of terminal illness. When it does become a part of their lives most children need a good deal of information and support to process what terminal illness means and how it will affect their lives.

Discussing a particular illness with children, discussing terminal illnesses with children, preparing children for terminal illness and deciding on how children will interact with the terminally ill are all things that adults will have to do to help children deal with the new developments in their lives.

Discussing The Particular Illness With Children

There are many types of terminal illnesses, so adults should discuss the particular illness that will affect them with the children involved. The illness should be named so that children do not feel that it is some sort of vague threat, and any questions that a child asks about it should be answered. Adults should also try to discuss any treatments that an individual might undergo, and what it means for the ill individual, that individual’s family and the child in question. Many children feel more in control when they have more information, but adults should take care not to make predictions that they have no control over in the future.

Discussing Terminal Illness With Children

Children should be told what terminal illness means. Children as young as age four will have some idea of the concept of death, so it should be made clear that “terminal” means that the illness will lead to death. This will not be an easy conversation, but it is important as it will allow children to prepare for the future and decide how they would like to proceed.

Some children may wonder why, if death is assured, that an individual will still choose to receive treatment. Others may wonder if prayer will help cure a terminally ill loved one. Adults will have to make their own decision about how to answer these questions, but if they do want to discuss miracles they should make it clear that a miracle could happen, but that is not a probability.

Preparing Children For Terminal Illness

When a child is diagnosed as terminally ill it can be very hard for parents to discuss this diagnosis with the child. Some parents may believe that they are protecting a child by not telling him or her about a terminal illness, but for the most part a child will already know that something serious is going on. By not telling a child about their terminal illness, parents also take away the child’s ability to decide what they would like to do with the time they all have left together. How and when to tell a child about his or her terminal illness will be different for all parents, but having medical staff or a member of the clergy with them may be helpful.

Children And The Terminally Ill

When a child has a terminally ill loved one they should not be prohibited from visiting unless it is a medical necessity. Keeping children away from the terminally ill may communicate to them that they are unwanted or that the ill individual is somehow dangerous. If a child is prohibited from visiting then it should be explained to them in a manner that they can understand and they should be encouraged to communicate in other ways such as by cards, emails, videos and more.

Terminal illness is not something with which most children are familiar. Discussing a particular illness, discussing terminal illness, preparing children for terminal illness and allowing children around the terminally ill are all ways that adults can help children become more familiar with terminal illness.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
When my daughter was 6 one of her close friends lost her mum to cancer. The little girl was closely supported by her family - and she still has lots of aunties stepping into the 'mum' role when needed even 10 years on. She was as well prepared as anyone can be, but I don't think losing a parent is something you ever get over. Having the support of friends and family is the most crucial thing and being completely honest about what's going to happen..
llastingimpact - 22-May-12 @ 4:52 PM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • Davidsdad
    Re: Death Certificates
    My son was killed in a motorcycle accident, we have a coroner's certificate of death, which has allowed a cremation, but cannot get a full…
    22 February 2018
  • Bella
    Re: Bereavement Payment
    My Mum, passed away early this month, my dad is 80 next month, does he qualify for Bereavement Allowance of £2000 ? Thank you
    21 February 2018
  • Chris
    Re: What if There is No Will?
    My brother has died interstate, it was unexpected. His legal heir is his only daughter who along with her mother pushed him out the…
    21 February 2018
  • Honey
    Re: Bereavement Counselling: What to Expect
    Thank you for your reply. I saw a traumatic grief counselor today, & she is going to provide some ongoing services…
    21 February 2018
  • FacingBereavement
    Re: Debts After Death
    Supernurse - Your Question:Looking for advice I have paid life insurance policy for my mum direct debit for almost twenty years. My mum died…
    20 February 2018
  • FacingBereavement
    Re: What if There is No Will?
    Bradders - Your Question:My mum has passed, there are 3 children, no will. We are unable to get hold of my older brother. Last known…
    19 February 2018
  • FacingBereavement
    Re: Bereavement Counselling: What to Expect
    Honey - Your Question:My oldest son was tragically killed on January 14, 2018 while on the side of the road tending…
    19 February 2018
  • Honey
    Re: Bereavement Counselling: What to Expect
    My oldest son was tragically killed on January 14, 2018 while on the side of the road tending to his load. He was a…
    19 February 2018
  • Bradders
    Re: What if There is No Will?
    My mum has passed, there are 3 children, no will. We are unable to get hold of my older brother. Last known he was living rough in…
    17 February 2018
  • Supernurse
    Re: Debts After Death
    Looking for advice I have paid life insurance policy for my mum direct debit for almost twenty years. My mum died recently leaving credit card…
    16 February 2018
Further Reading...
Our Most Popular...
Add to my Yahoo!
Add to Google
Stumble this
Add to Twitter
Add To Facebook
RSS feed
You should seek independent professional advice before acting upon any information on the FacingBereavement website. Please read our Disclaimer.