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What should I expect if I talk to my children about life-threatening conditions?

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When a family member has a life-threatening condition, children will often ask questions. The older they get, the more specific their questions will be.

Children don't process bad news in the same way that adults do. Parents may be hurt by this. Adults understand the permanence of death immediately, so we respond with tears. Children, especially those under age 12, may not understand this right away, so they may not have a strong initial reaction to bad news.

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:

How might children react sometimes to heavy conversations about their life-threatening condition?

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