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Explaining to a 7 year old terminal illness

(7 Posts)
wanttomakethingsbetter Sun 05-Jan-14 13:30:02

My father-in-law has a life-limiting condition and is starting to deteriorate. We have children aged 4 and 7 who are very close to their grandparents. Up until recently the children have visited by their grandpa is on oxygen with laboured breathing and there is concern that they will find this alarming. We have no plans to stop them visiting but for shorter periods and assessed on how grandpa feels on the day. Our 4 year old is oblivious and doesn't question but our 7 year old does and is a worrier. I am wondering whether I need to sit down and explain what is happening but at the same time do not want her going round to grandparents with this on her mind.

At the moment we do not know how long my father-in-law has got but his health has rapidly gone down in the past few weeks.

AwfulMaureen Sun 05-Jan-14 23:58:38

Sorry you're going through this. I would think twice about taking the children to be frank. My Grandmother was very ill for a time and as a child it TERRIFIED me. I was senstive and the whole thing gave me nightmares. When my other Gran became ill they did not take me to see her and I remembered her as she was. The just told me she was ill...then when she died, they told me she'd gone. It was easier I think.

Jennyl131 Thu 20-Feb-14 10:28:24

It's very hard, but better to be truthful, ime kids of that age worry more if they think you're hiding things from them. Death isn't the same concept for them at that age either.

It doesn't sound as if your FIL has cancer, but the Macmillan website has a section on explaining a terminal diagnosis to children which I found helpful when my own father was diagnosed with advanced cancer when ds1 was around the same age.

Hugs for you all, it's a difficult time.

mymatemax Thu 20-Feb-14 22:21:21

if you are going to take the children to see him you have to explain what the tubes & oxygen are doing and why his breathing sounds unusual.
It may be that there comes a stage where you think it is no longer helping anyone to continue with their visits but in the short term as long as you are honest but age appropriate and let her know its OK to ask questions.

BrianTheMole Thu 20-Feb-14 22:34:13

I chose not to take dc to see my dad when he was dying. I did consider it, but I don't think it would have helped them. He wasn't aware of his surroundings a lot of the time, there were a lot of tubes, and he was struggling to breath. It would have frightened dc. I had some very honest conversations with dc over the weeks. I talked about how grandad wasn't going to make it, but it was unfair for him to suffer etc. I think being open and honest with them helped, especially when my dad finally had to leave us. It helped for dc to send in letters and gifts, although my dad couldn't really appreciate them.

NoIamAngelaHernandez Thu 20-Feb-14 22:36:10

We have a book called 'lifetimes' which has been really helpful.

Sorry this is happening.

Foxsticks Thu 20-Feb-14 22:42:54

The hospice my mum was offered talked toymy sisters and I about how to best communicate terminal illness to children. Their advice was to be honest as children often have inklings and by not opening up discussion it can be scary if it appears to be a forbidden subject. They had different books for different age groups that could be borrowed. I'm sure macmillan or your local hospice could give you lots of help.

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