feelings: 1 Article

Talking About Feelings With Children Experiencing Serious Illness

Having a child who is very ill is one of the most difficult challenges a parent can face. Handling day-to-day medical needs can be exhausting, but often helping the child with their emotional needs can feel most stressful of all. A child’s illness will impact the entire family. For children living with a serious illness or for those worried about someone with a serious illness, storybooks can be a starting point for discussion, a safe way to ask questions, express concerns or worries about the character, or talk about their own feelings or experiences. Magination Press picture book, The Gift of Gerbert’s Feathers, by Dr. Meaghann Weaver and Dr. Lori Wiener, provides families with an opportunity to explore how a child and his family navigate the feelings around serious illness and death. This excerpt from the book’s Guide for Parents and Caregivers provides guidance about how to engage in conversations about feelings with children experiencing serious illnesses themselves or in their families. Parents, Grandparents & Primary Caregivers Parents may want to talk about what is worrying their child the most, but are afraid if they ask too many questions, they could upset their child even more. Children may want to talk with their parents about what is worrying them, but they worry about causing their parents even more stress. Children often worry more about how their illness is impacting their parents and siblings than they worry about what is happening to themselves. In this situation: Children might talk to other important people in their life, such as a grandparent, about deep concerns before sharing them with their parent(s). This is very normal! What children need most of all is the same unconditional love and support parents and caregivers have always provided, without all the chaos of the hospital or medications. Reading a book together can provide a quiet and comforting opportunity to talk about what is happening. Other Special People Families come in all shapes and sizes, and there might be many people who play an important role in a child’s life. Sometimes children don’t want to worry their parents or aren’t sure how their parents will respond to their thoughtful questions, and so the child may inquire of others than directly to the parents.  Sharing a story, like The Gift of Gerbert’s Feathers, can foster communication, providing opportunities to ask the child questions about their thoughts or feelings. This may be the only time the child feels safe enough to ask or answer such weighty questions.  Make a connection to a character or situation in the story and ask the child how they feel about it. For example, “Why do you think Gerbert’s mother brings him blueberries when he wasn’t feeling well? What would bring you comfort?”  Likewise, situations in a story may allow you to share and explore your family’s beliefs about death. As a special person, you can bring the child’s questions, worries, and concerns back to the child’s parents to reduce the chance they will

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Talking About Feelings With Children Experiencing Serious Illness 2020-02-10T17:48:47-05:00