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When Life Hits Hard: Talking to Your Kids About Your Illness

Guest Contributor:

Angela Body, LCSW, NSW-C

When diagnosed with a chronic, or terminal illness, most individuals are so afraid and confused that they are barely able to hold their head above water. Clients have shared that receiving a diagnosis of chronic illness is like being knocked off your feet, “literally.”

Many individuals withdraw from their spouse, kids, extended family members, friends and co-workers. Others maintain their lifestyle, experience some form of denial (which is a defense mechanism) and go through their day-to-day tasks without speaking about their condition.

Your child may notice changes in your behavior and/or physical health. Your child may become anxious, present with behavioral changes, sleeping issues, or nightmares.

Family members may step in to assist, but nothing compares to the bond between a child and their parents.

Please understand that this may not be the experience for most, however, historically, individuals can take several months to adjust.

Here are some helpful tips!

  • Be truthful. Speak with your child(ren) as soon as you are able.

  • Ask your child about any fears or concerns she/he may be experiencing.

  • Try not to make any drastic changes to their daily routine.

  • Set up an appointment to speak with your child’s teacher. Your child’s teacher can notify you of any emotional or behavioral changes they may be experiencing.

  • Allow your child to express their emotions in a healthy way.

  • If your condition is terminal, consider keeping a journal to document your love for your child.

  • Find a therapist to assist with these conversations, which may be beneficial to you and to your child.


Guest Contributor

Angela Body, LCSW, NSW-C is the founder of The Hope and Wellness Partnership ( ) and Licensed Clinical Social Worker providing mental health services to adults diagnosed with acute and chronic medical illnesses. She has worked in the medical field for 20 plus years in various ancillary roles. She received her Master’s in Social Work Degree in 2011 from the University of Southern California and opened her private practice in June of 2017.

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