Dementia is an awful disease that comes on without warning or explanation. It’s difficult to understand and as of right now we have no cure for it. If caught early, we can only prevent the effects from occurring quicker. Doctors and scientists have a tough time figuring out the mysteries of this dreadful disease. So how do you explain it to your children? How do you explain the fact that grandma or grandpa can no longer remember their name? Children spend their early years absorbing as much information as they can. They’re not used to being around the exact opposite.
It’s natural to want to hide the effects of dementia from children and save them from the confusing situation. However, it’s important for them to understand what’s going on. Young children are aware when they’re around a tense atmosphere. By providing them with the proper information, it can be relieving for kids to gain a better grasp on the situation. Here is a list of helpful strategies in order to explain dementia to your children.
Acknowledge the Change
Older adults who are affected by dementia can say hurtful things. Of course, they would never consciously insult their grandchildren, but it does happen. Acknowledge it. Tell your parent that what they said wasn’t nice in order to stick up for your child. Then, validate your child’s feelings. Your children have the right to be upset, but you don’t want them to be upset solely at their grandparent who has dementia. The disease is the true enemy. Explain to them that the grandparent’s mental state is not as strong as it used to be. By providing positive support and the proper information, it will help your child cope with the changes going on in their grandparent’s mind.
Teenagers are not always the best at expressing their feelings, especially if they are confused by the situation. This may call for some gentle encouragement in order for them to talk about their emotions. The last thing you want is for them to accuse themselves as to why grandma or grandpa is acting differently. This is a common scenario when dealing with a confusing situation. People will go down the line, looking to find any answer to the current problem. Sometimes, they might land on themselves as to why things are going badly. That’s why the gentle encouragement towards talking out loud is the best option when dealing with this situation. Here are three steps you should take when having this talk.
- Address the anxiety.
- Reassure them it is not their fault
- Provide information about the disease and all of its side effects
By providing this valuable information, it will help your child come to terms with the disease.
Involve your Children
Experience is the best teacher. Dementia is a tough thing to talk about, so having your children around the grandparent with dementia may help them understand it better. Here are ways to involve your kids.
- Make sure they spend time with the grandparent.
- Go through the old photo albums to show them what grandma or grandpa was like before the disease.
- Let them know their efforts helping the family is appreciated and really benefiting for the person with dementia.
It’s best not to leave the situation untouched. If your child does have questions, don’t deflect them. It’s best to be open and honest. There is no exact manual in order to have such a talk. Every person is different and every person reacts to such news in their own way. The best bet is to truly understand your child. Understand what’s going on inside their mind, and do your best to have a heart to heart with them about grandma or grandpa.
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