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Anonymous asks:
Q:

How to behave or talk around 8YO when you learn daddy may have life-threatening illness?

We have just learned (from our family doctor and hospital tests) that my husband may have a serious, life-threatening illness (possibly early-stage lung cancer). Until we know for sure what the diagnosis is (and the severity of the situation), we don't want to alert or alarm our 8 year old. Yet, we also doubt we'll be able to hide the many doctor, hospital and lab visits, and it will also be difficult to hide our worries or fears (especially if the preliminary diagnosis turns out to be true, or if his conditions worsens as we wait for more test results). This is also going to bring financial burden upon our family, as his insurance is minimal and the hospital fees are expected to be expensive.

How do we go about this situation without scaring or worrying our daughter? She does know there is something wrong with daddy, but she doesn't know all that we know, and thinks he just has a cold or something minor like that.

How to manage all this stress and worry, and be good parents at the same time? Any tips or advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
In Topics: Children and stress, Medical problems, Communicating with my child (The tough talks)
> 60 days ago

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Expert

Wayne Yankus
Nov 2, 2009
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What the Expert Says:

Make it simple, now, and be reassuring.  Eight year olds have some concept of illness, but their greatest fear is "what happens if?"They worry about their own care and safety as well as the continuation of the family security. Say that daddy is sick and is taking care of himself by seeing his doctor. Keep the day to day life as predictable with schedules as humanly possible.  When dad starts his therapy be sure he is available to her before school. Children like to see mom and dad on their feet and dressed. Make appointments when able during the school day. Do not apologize for life change and illness, just explain that you need  help and someone else may need to help at home.  Let's hope for the best outcome, but take it slowly one day at a time.

Wayne Yankus, MD, FAAP
expert panelist: pediatrics
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