Open your Eyes and Ears
Communicating with a child is not about sitting them down to listen to your lecture. The best conversations are reciprocal and go on for a period of time.
Chances are good the child will experience feelings of shock, confusion, denial, anger and sadness in regards to the news. Keep your radar up by watching their reaction and listening to what they have to say.
If they look confused or say that they do not understand, give more information. If they begin to display or state feelings of anger, permit them to do so. Voice your understanding and that you feel the same way. There is comfort in knowing that other people feel the same way you do.
Too often, people fear expressions of emotion. They make them feel awkward and unsure of themselves. In this situation, emotion is good because it means that the child is processing the information.
Learning that their parent or grandparent is sick will make the child feel sad, but you cannot run away from their tears. Instead, choose to comfort them with a hug, a tissue or reassurance that you will spend the time you have left to its fullest.
Continue the Conversation
Starting the conversation is a challenge for many, while others find that maintaining the conversation is more difficult. People, especially children, require varying amounts of time to process information.
Perhaps the child will react immediately, or maybe he will not want to talk about it for days or weeks later. Check in with the child frequently to let them know the lines of communication remain open.
Another way to continue the conversation is by keeping the child aware of your progression, decline and treatment. You may want to invite them to a doctor’s appointment so they have a better concept of where you go and what the doctor looks like. This will give the child an opportunity to ask their own questions to staff that can provide clear information.
There is no “right way” to have a conversation with a child in your life about your COPD. The only “wrong way” is to not have the conversation at all. As long as you are open, willing and honest with the information and your feelings, you can turn a negative situation into a way to bring your relationships closer.
If you use CRISP communication for explaining COPD to a child, and continue the conversation, you help the people you love, and they, in turn, help you.