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At what point do you tell your children that your father is terminally ill?

My dad has cancer and there isn't much they can do for him at this point. He is still receiving chemotherapy, but only until he can no longer stand how sick it makes him. The best guess is that he has a year to live.

My oldest is close to him and I know he will be devastated and worry about him dying until it happens. I don't want him to be crazy with worry, but if something happened before that I want him to be prepared for the possibility, that Papa could and will die soon.

At this point my dad seems very healthy, so it is even surreal to me that he is so sick. I just don't son is a worry wart and I don't want him to worry himself to death about it. He is 11. And had a very difficult time when his great grandpa died, then great grandma less than a year later.

When would you tell your kids?

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Asked by SleepingBeautee at 9:15 PM on Jan. 16, 2011 in General Parenting

Level 45 (192,108 Credits)
Answers (9)
  • Here is a wonderful website that tells you how to handle the situation you are in - Tell him sooner than later, as he may be resentful that you knew and did not tell him, hence you lied to him.

    Answer by neebug3766 at 9:20 PM on Jan. 16, 2011

  • I am one who thinks death is something we have to deal with, no matter the age. I don't believe in shielding young children from it, it is a part of life and not something to fear. We have dealt with deaths of pets and such with our 4 year old. I would probably tell him now if he were my son. Just explain that grandpa is sick and he may pass within the next year. I would try to make it more of a, we need to appretiate the time we have and love him as much now as we can. He doesn't need to know all the details just that when it is grandpa's time to go he won't be in pain anymore.

    Answer by ILoveCade at 9:21 PM on Jan. 16, 2011

  • Have you talked to your father about it? Maybe he might want to be the one to tell your son since they're so close? Or perhaps he'll at least have some ideas. I'm sorry I don't have anything more than that. My dad was given 6 months to a year to live and then died only 3 weeks later (just a month ago); my kids are only 1.5 and 3.5, and I never talked to them about it. :(

    Answer by DragonRiderMD at 9:25 PM on Jan. 16, 2011

  • My kids were 6 and 2 1/2 when my father in law passed away from cancer...We felt the same way that you do about not wanting our son (6) to worry. We explained to him that his papaw was very sick and that it wasnt something he could catch but that there wasnt a medicine to make him better. We let him ask all of the questions that he wanted to and tried to answer them the best we could. When my FIL got to the point that we knew it wouldnt be much longer we reminded him of the sickness and told him that everyone passes away at some point that it is a part of life...we arent very religious but we do believe in God so we explained heaven to him. He seemed to have an understanding and we told him that he could ask questions whenever he needed to and also reassured him that it was ok to be sad. When FIL passed away he was upset but was expecting it since we had been preparing him the only thing he asked was if papaw was with angels.

    Answer by foxracing43701 at 10:04 PM on Jan. 16, 2011

  • What a great question and equally great answers!

    One time I gave a book to my SIL when her mother died, for her to read to her children about death and grieving. Here is a link to a bunch of books for kids...maybe you can find one that is right for your family:

    Answer by SandyHack at 10:25 PM on Jan. 16, 2011

  • My grandmother died when I was nine- no one really told me that she was terminally ill. I could see that she was very sick, but at the same time I felt like if she was going to die someone would have told me about it. When she did die it was a shock, and I felt like people had been lying to me. I would be honest in a gentle way- let him know that grandpa is sick, that he has cancer, and that the doctors are doing the best that they can to help him but that sometimes this is a disease that medicine just can't fix. At 11 he is old enough to understand death and to deal with it in his own way. Yes, it may upset him, but that's only natural- it's normal to be upset when a loved one is sick or dies. I think we often feel our kids are not able to handle things that, in fact, they can- and sometimes must- handle.

    I'm very sorry that your dad is not well... your family is in my thoughts.

    Answer by Freela at 10:31 PM on Jan. 16, 2011

  • im so sorry doll! prayers are with you. Talk to your dad about it maybe he will have some wise words :)

    Answer by sarlove01 at 11:01 PM on Jan. 16, 2011

  • I think at 11 he is aware there is something going on. I think you should be open about the situation. He's probably far more worried now but afraid to ask questions. Open the communication now to help he deal with it.

    Answer by Austinsmom35 at 5:24 PM on Jan. 17, 2011

  • The sooner the better. He needs time to come to terms with it.

    Answer by MillyPontipee at 4:23 PM on Jan. 18, 2011

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