Age-appropriate conversations make a difference
Here are some pointers for explaining an illness, based on a child’s age and developmental level. Remember, child life specialists are available to help with this process:
Toddler: Since the vocabulary of toddlers is limited, use words they can identify with. Toddlers are just learning their body parts. If they have an injury, you can point to the area or use the name of that body part. If the illness is in the blood, which may be unfamiliar, explain that you need to take your child to the hospital for medicine that can make him or her feel better. It is appropriate to use or teach words adults use.
Preschooler: Children at this age can start to learn about parts of the body, how we use them and why we need them. It is appropriate to start using the names of illnesses, medications and treatments.
Early school age: At this age, children are interested in details about how their bodies work. Appropriate terms and discussions about misconceptions are important.
School age: Many children are learning that our bodies are made up of cells. Continue to utilize appropriate terms, clarify misconceptions and provide details about the illness and treatment plan.
Teens: Include your child in medical discussions with doctors and caregivers. It is important to have open conversations and follow-up discussions about the illness and treatment plan.