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Explaining Illness to Children

Lil Community: Explaining a Terminal Diagnosis to Children

In need of advice. This post was submitted by an Anonymous reader in the A Place to Vent group.

I am not a mother but I am Tee Tee (an aunt) to five beautiful little girls, ranging in age from nine years old to 10 months old. I was diagnosed as terminal a year ago and my sister and I finally decided it was time to sit down with the children and explain to them what is happening.

They know things are changing ... I am now in a wheelchair, I have to take a lot of medications, I constantly monitor my heart, etc. While the two youngest really don't understand anything, the three older girls are really struggling. I took care of all five of them last week and the oldest, Ashleigh, would barely leave my side. Seriously, I had to lock the bathroom door just to pee in peace! I understand her fear but I'm not sure of how to reassure her while still being honest.

The bottom line of all of it is that my health is affecting the entire family and that includes them. They have the right to a (limited) access of information and they need that information because they know that something is not right. Can anybody give me some suggestions on how to make this easier on them.  I am already writing them letters for the future, journaling for them, videotaping myself, etc. That's for the future though. Is there anything I can do for them now?

Let it all out in our anonymous A Place to Vent group over in the LilSugar Community.

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First and foremost I am deeply sorry about your diagnosis, but you deserve all of my respect because in this difficult time you are concerned about what your nieces feel! They are lucky to have you and I'm sure will have the best memories of you. I think you should be open with them. Kids know when something is wrong and excluding them will not help them. But I also think it's important to make sure they don't try to protect you, like you mentioned. What a big task for a little girl. They might end up feeling guilty. They way we dealt with it (although we weren't little kids anymore) was to be open about everything. We never pretended everything was okay, and we cried on occasion and it brought us so much closer.
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