Explaining sickness to a child

Mickey Guisewite, Parent With A Purpose, shares advice for parents on the best ways to explain serious illnesses, such as cancer, to young children
Pediatric Cancer Advice | Explaining Sickness To A Child
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Explaining sickness to a child

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When our son was diagnosed with cancer I knew that it was really important to talk to our 5-year-old daughter about his disease in age appropriate terms. We didn't want to scare her. On the other hand we wanted her to understand that her big brother was sick, so we – in 5-year-old terms – explained to her that her big brother had a sickness, that it wasn't a sickness that she could catch, it was something inside his own body. And that he was going to be spending a lot of time at the hospital getting treatment to make sure that he got better. And that was sort of the way we framed it to her. Something that really helped was the first time she came to the hospital to see her big brother – you know, he's in his room all hooked up with IV bags and he's getting chemotherapy, and his hair is starting to fall out. And a child life specialist at the hospital took our 5-year-old daughter and sat down with her, and had a stuffed doll and she, in – 5-year-old terms – talked to our daughter about the IV and where it was going to be and what that was about and what it was like for our son to get needle pokes. And it really prepared her to walk into his room and not be frightened.

Mickey Guisewite, Parent With A Purpose, shares advice for parents on the best ways to explain serious illnesses, such as cancer, to young children

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Mickey Guisewite

Parent with a Purpose

Mickey Guisewite is a former advertising executive and syndicated newspaper columnist who started The Bottomless Toy Chest after her son successfully completed cancer treatment. The Bottomless Toy Chest is a nonprofit organization devoted to delivering toys, crafts and hands-on activities to hospitalized pediatric cancer patients. Mickey lives at home with her husband, son, daughter, two dogs, two cats and two turtles. When she’s not delivering toys to sick kids, she’s at home trying to find a tiny space on the couch among her two-legged and four-legged family members. 

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