Have you ever needed to talk to a kid about your chronic illness? Not the easiest, is it? I recently got my first questions about it from one of my nieces, and I was very careful about what I said.
Today, I share what has worked for me in the past. And I’m very curious to hear what works for you!
*AWAP = As Well As Possible
Now it’s your turn:
How about you? Have you had conversations with your kids (or your friends’ kids) about your chronic illness? Tell me all about it in the comments below.
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Until we meet again: Be AWAP! Smooches!
Hi! I’m Jenni Grover Prokopy of ChronicBabe.com and today is AWAP Wednesday (that stands for As Well As Possible).
Each week, I offer you my personal favorite tips and techniques to help you craft an incredible life beyond illness. Yes! I know you can.
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Why do you take medicine? My nine-year-old niece asked me this recently while I was visiting my family back in my hometown. Why did you decorate your pill case? What’s chronic illness? Why do you have it? She was full of questions!
Most kids will be, by a certain age – especially when they start to realize that other people are noticing you’re different in some way.
I’m not a parent, and I’m not a child psychology expert, so take what I have to say here with a grain of salt. Because I am a very active auntie to a handful of kids, biological relatives and family of choice. And I’ve had to explain my chronic illness to almost all of them.
Don’t make it depressing
If a little kid you love asks about your chronic illness, you are not obligated to explain all the gory details. In fact, I think simplicity is best; they’re going to take what you say and process it for a while, and you don’t want them thinking about all your intense symptoms, right?
With my niece, I simply said I have a chronic illness that makes me hurt and makes me tired. That’s it. She’ll learn more about my many symptoms as she gets older, but for now, that’s enough information to give her a framework.
Welcome their questions
My niece didn’t understand what “chronic” meant. She gets illness, but the chronic part was hard for her to grasp, so I didn’t push it. I just explained that it’s something I’ll have for my whole life. She went quiet, and I could tell she was trying to understand what that means. How does a little kid conceptualize an “entire life?”
“Ask me whatever you want,” I told her. She wanted to know why I decorate my pill cases; I explained that their beauty makes me happy, especially since it’s not fun to take medicine – a concept she totally gets.
Her only other question, for now at least, was why I had to take medicine. “I take medicine so I can feel well enough to come visit you, to work, to hang out with Uncle Joe and our friends. The medicine helps me a lot,” I explained.
Don’t take anything personally
Kids can say some really hurtful stuff without meaning to. My little-er niece, who’s three, watched me get on the floor one day to do my daily yoga. “Oh yay, now I can jump on your back!” she said gleefully.
“Oh, no, sweetie, please don’t jump on my back. You could hurt Aunt Jenni and then we can’t play together!” I replied. The nine-year-old said, “Because you’re fragile, right?”
Fragile?! Whoa, where did THAT word come from? I have no idea. But it’s not a label I want her carrying around for me. It stung, but I know she didn’t mean anything by it – it’s just a word she picked up somewhere. I brushed it off, explaining that I just don’t like being jumped on because it would hurt. That seemed like enough explanation.
You will set the tone with kids; they’ll follow your cues. If you’re straightforward, clear, and concise, they’ll begin to understand. When in doubt, ask their parents for suggestions and guidance; I’ve done that with lots of my friends with kids.
Don’t hide your experience from them; you want a real relationship with people you love, including kiddos, right? Just be real. Remind them that you’re strong in spite of it. Show them you’re a ChronicBabe, and you’re teaching them tolerance, flexibility, strength.
Be the best YOU you can be with kiddos, and they won’t care how sick you are.
Thanks for watching today! Have you talked with kids about your illness? What was your experience? I’d love to know. Share your strategy in the comments here or head on over to the blog at ChronicBabe.com to join the conversation—I want to hear what YOU have to say.
If you liked what you saw today, subscribe to my ChronicBabe YouTube channel—and watch another one of my favorite videos right now. I think you’re gonna like it!
Until we meet again, be AWAP! Smooches!