Inform child of possibility of death?

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Question from Georgetown: What is the best way to inform a child of the concept of death and how it may relate to a parent as a possibility?
Answers - Joan Hermann If a mother is really worried that she is going to die, the child needs preparation for that. This may not be a conversation that the mother is able to have, so she shouldn't beat up on herself if she isn't able to say to the child that she is going to die. She might want to say something like, "The doctors are worried that the medicines aren't working as well as they did before, and I'm really worried about what's going to happen next." And then ask the child what she's worried about. "Do you sometimes worry that the treatment isn't working, or that I'm not going to make it?" That would be for children five years old and up. It's different depending on how much information the child can absorb, but even a five-year-old needs to know that things are not going well. The mother needs to say, "I'm doing everything I can to beat this thing, but if the worst happens, you will always be taken care of. I don't want to ever have to leave you and I'm still going to try my best to be here for you. But if the worst happens, you will be taken care of." Again, get Wendy Harphan's book, "When a Parent Has Cancer —A Guide to Caring for Your Children." Children will obviously be very upset at the possibility of your death, but they can find ways to go on. Mothers need to know that they have left a large part of themselves in their children, and it is possible for your children to grieve for you and then to move on and live their lives in a productive way. This doesn't need to destroy them.

The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called Kids and Mom's Breast Cancer featured Joan Hermann, L.S.W. and moderator Marisa Weiss, M.D. answering your questions about talking to your kids about breast cancer.

Editor's Note: This conference took place in August 2000.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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