Advice I Can Give My Friend

Updated on January 19, 2009
E.F. asks from Chattanooga, TN
12 answers

Do you tell your children everything about an ailing grandparent and their health? Meaning is it my responsibility to let Lauren Darin and Cathryn(my friends children) know each up to the minute report on Mom even if it is better or even if it is worse? How much protection should we give our kids who are already living in a tough and difficult world? My children are 23 18 and 12.
Help for my friend would be great! Thank you. E.

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So What Happened?

I realize I meant to write it as what I can tell my friend to say to her children. I didn't mean I was going to tell her children for her! SPRRY guys!!! =) When I re-read it, I realized that it came out wrong. I am a dope sometimes. She is wanting to have thoughts on whether to much info is not good for her children, or honesty! I didn't know what to tell her. When my mom was dying of all sorts of cancers I told my son some things because he was especially close to my mom, but my daughter was still in diapers and not old enough for any conversations. Thank u all for your thoughts!!!! This community is wonderful and I am so lucky to have you all! E.

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answers from Nashville on

They do not need to know all the details, but do need to know that grandma is in poor health and may pass away soon. The doctors say she has..... You do not need to give them a minute by minute account, but they do deserve to know so they can prepare and grieve accordingly. They also need to hear it from a parent not a friend.

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answers from Parkersburg on

I firmly believe children need to be kept in the loop at all times. My grandparents raised me and they have always been up front with me from a very young age to even now about their health issues. Children aren't stupid they will know when something is wrong and when things are not explained it will scare them worse. The truth is always the best policy, but sometimes the truth you tell them doesn't need to be the worst case scenerio. I would give them the most positive truth you can if you know what i mean?

My son is going on 2 yrs of age and he even senses the changes in his great grandfather who has started kidney failure. He doesn't even want him out of his sight; he goes to bed with him until he falls to sleep and i put him in his own bed. The thing is he knows grandpa is sick even without me telling him. The time is coming I will have to tell him about grandpa having bad "boo boo's". HE is a very sensitive child to these matters as it is.

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answers from Lexington on

I think that it is a parent's responsibility to tell their children. A parent should know how much information their child can handle. If a parent has concerns, their local hospice has books and can give them advice on what they might say to the child. If the child is asking you, then I would tell them that you will talk with their parents and get back to them. Maybe your friend is not up to talking with the child(ren) about the situation. If this is the case I would talk to your friend and only tell the child(ren) if she wants you to talk with the child(ren) for her. Try and set aside some time so that she can tell you what she wants the child(ren) to know and what she thinks they can handle.

Children are very perceptive. My sister and I had a newborn a toddler and a preschooler to deal with when our grandmother died. The toddler and the preschooler new that she was very sick and they had a lot of questions. It wasn't always easy to talk with them.



answers from Memphis on

Is it their mom, your friend who's sick? If so this is harder to keep details quiet than if it is a grandparent. The 23 yr old should definitely be old enough to understand and cope with details. Sometimes details even help people prepare for the eventual outcome. The 18 yr old can probably handle it as well. The 12 yr old probably needs a slightly condensed version. At 12 they don't need a minute by minute account, just today was a good/bad day, they're starting this treatment. Not the exact process of the treatment, gorey details of side effects, etc. I was 14 when my uncle was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, and 16 when he died. His children were 15 and newborn when diagnosed and 17 and 2 when he died. My older sister, older cousin and myself knew just about everything all through it. The baby only knew Daddy was sick towards the end. We knew the diagnosis, that they first did radiation (although at first I didnt' know in details of the treatment I learned them after when my parents had to explain the burns on his scalp), the tumor has shrunk, the tumors back, they're doing chemo, its not working, he's not interested in the experimental programs because they're out of state. And of course the last 2 weeks: he fall and hit his head on the wall and is in ICU, he's hooked to lots of machines, he's slipped into a coma, they're turning off the machines.I visited him in ICU so I was given details about his condition to prepare me the first time I saw him. You have to base the amount of information you give on the age and maturity of the child, how close a relationship they have with the sick person, and if they will be visiting them in the hospital or while the person is symptomatic. Explain and prepare, don't scare.



answers from Goldsboro on

My dad has just gone through some major health issues and is finally "on the up"...My children are 3, 10, 16, and 18. I've let them know anytime I got an update on grandpa's condition except the 3 year old had no clue of course. I think my kids appreciated knowing how he was doing and would have felt betrayed by me if I hadn't kept them current. They have been able to put him on prayer request lists at Sunday School, etc, so they felt they were helping to some extent. And if grandpa hadn't made it through all this, they would have known why.



answers from Jacksonville on

If the 23 yo wants to know the truth she should be told. I would only tell a 12 yo that Grandma is doing better today or this week or she has been feeling worse. Just leave it at that. My FIL had a terrible stroke and I told my 12 10 and 6 yo that he had the stroke but only said after that how he was feeling and not that the doctors were transfering him to Mayo. It was very touch and go for over a month. I had the kids send him cards and we let them talk to him but only for a minute or so.
Also the 23 yo and 18 yo should keep their mouths shut around the younger child if the situation seems to be getting worse.
Prayers for your friend. It's hard to watch your own mom and dad become dependent on others.



answers from Johnson City on

I agree that the info should come from their parents. Remember to give the kids some credit for maturity. Especially the older two. My grandfather passed away when I was 19 from cancer. I didn't even know he had cancer until he passed away. I knew he was sick, but was never given any details. I later learned that it was not the first time he had had cancer (I was about 12 the first time around). I have always felt like my parents didn't tell me enough. By the way I was very close to my grandparents. We lived only a few miles apart my whole life and we visited at least weekly if not more. I'd say it depends on the kids, but remember that they understand more than you think they do.



answers from Rocky Mount on

I grew up with two sick grandparents. By the time I was a teen I was still being kept in the dark so I asked to be informed. I liked knowing what to expect. It is stressful and I cried a lot but it prepared me for things that happened later. My grandfather eventually had a heart transplant and due to the wait, surgery, recovery, and rehab he was away from home for over 8 months. It was stressful for everyone but hiding details won't help anyone. I think they should all be old enough to decide what they want to know. If the issue ever arises with my children I will tell them that so-and-so is sick and that there will be good days and bad days but they need to know that life eventually ends and we should cherish the time we have with so-and-so. I will then ask them if they want to know everything as I know it or give them the option to ask for updates when they are ready. I know this is a tough situation and everyone will react differently but honesty is the best policy right now. I hope things work out for the best.



answers from Nashville on

I tell my children the truth. I don't give them all the gory details, but I tell them the truth. I give more information to my older children than I give the younger child. I would encourage you to give them developmentally appropriate information.



answers from Chattanooga on

My daughter is 5, and she knows what's going on w/ my husband's mom. We just explain it to her, in kid terms. She's been to the hospital several times for different relatives, and knows the routine. My son is 3, so he just sees machines and a bed. My mom-in-law is having surgery for artery blockage any day now, and my kids will know what's up. So my advice would be, to let them know. But don't overload w/ info, and explain it so they can understand. Hope this helps.



answers from Lexington on

The amount of information depends on their age and what their parents want to tell them. With the limited information here, I don't think it's your responsibility to let your friends children know anything about it unless their parents direct you to do so.

For example, when my daughter was about 3 years old we told her that everybody's body lasts a certain amount of time and it's different for everyone. We simply told her that ____'s body is starting to not work and likened it to the batteries in her toys. They only last so long. The doctors are trying to make ____ better. Then depending on her questions gave tiny bits of information.

Good luck to everyone involved.



answers from Huntington on

Sorry, Ellen, I was a little confused as to if this advise was to you for your little children or the adult (and 12yo) children you mentioned.

I think ALL children should be kept informed of g'parent's health in a manner that is reasonable for their age. The teens/preteens are especially vulnerable to misinformation, and they are learning 'good' and appropriate behaviors from the grown-ups in their lives and this includes the grieving process. When you hide things like death and sickness, I think you make it taboo and scary. Death is a part of life and kids need to know this.

For the adult children, I think they are old enough to call and ask for routine updates on g'ma's health, but someone should call when there are major changes (hospitalization, etc.) so they are not in the dark. Post high school age are not 'kids' anymore and should take some responsibility for being citizens in the family!

For what it's worth, I've had the joy of lots of grandparents and great-g'parents and the sadness of losing many of them, too. I am very glad my family included me, even as a child in the process of dealing with their illnesses and death. I don't remember being stressed over it. As I have gotten older, I realize that death and sickness is not some big and shameful mystery and we can get through it together, as a family.

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