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What do you tell your children?


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I am just curious what other parents tell their children about their illness(es)? Things have been pretty rough for me the past week or two and I try my best to hide it from the kids but they can see when mommy can't get out of bed or doesn't eat. I just tell them mommy "doesn't feel well" but don't give any details. My kids are 8 and 6 so I really don't think they need more detail than that. So far this appeases them.

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I don't think that there is one right answer, and it certainly depends on the maturity level of your children. You could however, give them a few more details- you could explain moods and talk about how they go up and down. You could also talk about how moods can affect someone's behavior, and tell them that your mood sometimes gets you so down that you are unable to get out of bed, etc. Even more important than that, throughout any discussion you have with them, you should stress that when you feel bad, it has nothing to do with their behavior or not loving them. I think you should repeat that over and over. Children often internalize and misinterpret events as things that they have control over or cause, when they actually don't.

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As all parents figure out...kids are smart! I try to be as truthful as I can be,and I am constantly telling them that it is not their fault as to why things are the way that they are.If I am feeling miserable and depressed and I know it right away, I warn them and tell them what I am feeling and I tell them I love them and that we are a family,through bad days and good.And that we all have them. I don't want my kids to be like me, but I have very little control over what they will become as adults, but I can help teach them how to deal with their feelings.My kids are use to the ups and downs, and have adapted, and when I am down and don't care to get up but I do, they become very affectionate and will play together nicely, and take care of me. They even will get snacks and get ready for bed on their own...they are 3 and 4 years old! And they are usually the opposite(like kids are)! To me, honesty is number one in this house.

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  • 2 months later...

I have a 4 yr old and I answer her questions honestly but cautiously. Sometimes, I have to tell her, "please trust me, I need a few minutes, and I am trying." She says "Okay mommy."

She has seen me at my worst AND now, at my best. Whenever she is sad, I tell her that it is okay to be sad, I am here for her, and remind her that mommy was sad once and did get better. It is possible to smile again. She takes comfort in that fact that I got through it, so can she.

And sometimes, I'll share that I want to cheer up, so what can we do that will make us both giggle? We've had silly face contests, play dress up with each other's clothes, played hide and seek in the house, and even a few burping contests. She seems happy that we are a team and will help each other no matter what. And listening to her giggle reminds me that I need to keep trying, keep living, and keep being a mom!

Hope some of this helps.

Best wishes.

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  • 1 month later...

I have a 15 yr old son who is disabled. I try not telling him much about what is going on with me. I do not want him to think it is his fault that I am the way I am and struggle with personal issues. He does not need to worry about me. It is not his fault either that sometimes i screw up and do stupid crap to myself. I never want to put it on him, and make him worry or be frightened by my behaviors. That is not fair to do that to your children. I want to protect him in any way i can about my Personality Disorder and depression.

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Guest ASchwartz

Hi Mscat,

Please think about what the others have written about this topic. There are no secrets in families particularly because children sense what is going on whether we tell them or not. You might think you are protecting your child but he can tell when something is bothering Mom.

In my opinion, it is OK to tell children so long as you do not overload them with too much information. For example, it would be ok to tell you son that you experience anxiety or worry sometimes but be sure to assure him that this has nothing to do with him and that you will be ok. At least, in this way, it confirms what he senses, reducing his anxiety, and lets him know that its not his fault.

What do others think??


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  • 5 weeks later...

I understand what y ou are telling me, hjowever, with A child who has high functioning Autism with cognitive delays i need to be extra careful what to tell him. Yes, he knows that I SI with burning, and does bget very scared every time i am in the Hospital for it. He does not understand, and is afraide that I will die.

He is very obsessive in his thinking and thought process. I will not burden him with my Problems , because i do not fully understand them myself. It is too much on my child for him to fear his mother is going to be dead, or never see me again. HE is already terrified of losing me. We are close to each other and I love him very much.

It does not make any sense to try and explain something like this to A child like him who has Autism and the biggeset fear he has is losing his one and only parent.

There is no way I'd put that burden on him. He has his own chalenges he faces each and every day, let alone for him to have to worry that he is going to be left alone and abandoend he is not the typical teenaged boy .

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Mscat, I do understand your concerns. While my son is not disabled, he has had a very lengthy medical history including multiple surgeries (3 of them very major surgeries) and still has some residual effects. He is 8 and for a long time I did not want him to know what was wrong with me. I did not want him to think it was in any way his fault. PLUS, he had enough to worry about, I did not want him worrying about me, too!

But, I thought about the advice given here. I do know that he (and his younger sister) see and know when something is not right. Even if they can't understand what causes it. I have 2 major phobias and BOTH of them were triggered while we were on our family vacation this year. There is simply no way to hide that from them. I decided I had to find a way to tell them what was going on- but on a level and using a vocabulary they could understand.

I explained to them that certain things make mommy very nervous and that when that happens I need time to "regroup." I explained that they do not need to be worried about mommy because mommy has doctors and a therapist taking care of her and it is THEIR job to worry about mommy!

They have accepted this explanation. And, to my surprise and relief, they have not been scared when I have panic attacks- instead, they want to nurture and comfort me. They look for ways to help calm me. I think in some way it benefits them to know what is happening because they no longer feel out of control.

I know it is harder to do with your son's condition. But, I think finding a way to discuss it on his level- even if it is just to say "Mommy is sick" or "Mommy has trouble with getting nervous" or whatever. It doesn't have to be lengthy or detailed, but something to let him know what to expect and how it affects him.

I hope this helps some. I know our situations are not the same, but I do understand your concerns.

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I have talked to my child about certain other tings that I have trouble dealing with, just not the self injury part. i do not want him to think it is a good behavior , and then he starts self injuring too.

For example, i have explained to him not to throw stuff at me. I can't deal with that, I I jump, flinch and freak out about that. I let him know that when little my daddy threw things at us all the time, an d it scares me very much. Also , I am very uncomfortable with touches. I do not like to be touched , and my sone is the touchy feel kid. SO I need my space, and really do not want his hands on me ever. Yes i give him a hug, but for him to just reach out and try to touch me, I come unglued. Agan, from past experiences that abuse was not a nice feeling phyiscally. SO now anything physical makes me extremely upset, or anxious. Even if it is my son. My son is A big kid, and he needs to undertand boundaries. One of his problems that he does not. Even with me.

It can be difficult at time, to have a child who is over 200 LBS 15 yrs old, and has the mind of a 6 yr old. :eek: That is what I deal with daily.

So telloing him any more about why mommy sometimes can't function well some days, or is not feeling well emotionally, and has new injuries, forget about it. He would become very upset and think that I am dying.

It does not work the same way with my son. He knows that I am all that he has, and his worst fear is that i will go awa y or die. He is very dependant on me, and that is why I try and protect him from my own struggles.

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