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How do I break bad news to my children if they have a life-threatening condition?

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Maintaining open communication with children from the time of diagnosis onward lessens the likelihood of suddenly surprising a child with bad news later on. Keeping children up to date at every stage of treatment can make breaking bad news easier.

When a child has been following the progress of treatments, a parent or palliative care professional can say something similar to, "Remember the medicine we hoped would make you better? It's not doing what we hoped it would do."

From: Talking to Children about Death WebMD Medical Reference

SOURCES:

Kreicbergs, U. , Sept. 16, 2004. New England Journal of Medicine

Helene Morgan, LCSW, Comfort and Palliative Care Team, Los Angeles Children's Hospital.

Arden O'Donnell, LCSW, Pain and Palliative Care, Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center, Boston.

Megan McCabe, MD, Director, Pediatric Palliative Care Fellowship, Yale School of Medicine.

Andres Martin, MD, Director, Children's Psychiatric In-Patient Service, Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital.

Kendra Frederick, CCLS, Certified Child Life Specialist, Pediatric Oncology Unit, Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital.

Reviewed by Dan Brennan on January 9, 2018

SOURCES:

Kreicbergs, U. , Sept. 16, 2004. New England Journal of Medicine

Helene Morgan, LCSW, Comfort and Palliative Care Team, Los Angeles Children's Hospital.

Arden O'Donnell, LCSW, Pain and Palliative Care, Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center, Boston.

Megan McCabe, MD, Director, Pediatric Palliative Care Fellowship, Yale School of Medicine.

Andres Martin, MD, Director, Children's Psychiatric In-Patient Service, Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital.

Kendra Frederick, CCLS, Certified Child Life Specialist, Pediatric Oncology Unit, Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital.

Reviewed by Dan Brennan on January 9, 2018

NEXT QUESTION:

Are there resources to start the conversation with a child about their life-threatening condition?

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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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