Finding out a loved one has been diagnosed with dementia is incredibly hard for everyone in the family, but it can often be particularly difficult for the young members of the family who may not have a full understanding of what the illness is and how it will affect their relative. Talking to children about dementia is incredibly important but it can be a very difficult subject to tackle. Here are a few tips to help you discuss dementia with your children.
Talk it through
It’s understandable that you may want to protect your children from learning about their loved one’s dementia but having an open discussion about the disease early on can help them to understand the challenges that you and your family are facing. Young children may have never encountered or heard of the condition so it is important to give them information on dementia, how the brain is affected and how in turn this will impact on their loved one. Don’t be afraid of encouraging questions as this can often lead to a deeper understanding of the condition. There are a vast range of resources including books and videos that can help you tackle the initial discussion, Alzheimer’s Research UK has a kids and teens website with resources that may help.
Often, when it comes to talking to children about illness and death, it seems simpler to soften the facts so as not to upset them too much. However, it really is best to be as honest and open as possible when it comes to talking about dementia. The more honest you are, the more prepared your children will be. This will help to reduce their anxiety and give them time to come to terms with the news. But also explain that it’s okay to laugh about it sometimes too and that they can still have fun with their relatives despite the condition.
Spending time together as a family is incredibly important. There are a number of activities that you can do together which not only encourage conversation and but also give a sense of independence to the person dealing with dementia. For example, helping with day-to-day chores, like gardening, going for a gentle walk or playing a puzzle together. Active Minds have a range of award winning activities that have been specifically designed to engage people with dementia and provide a sense of connection and interaction.
Signs your children are struggling
Regardless of how you discuss dementia with your children, you may find that they struggle to come to terms with the news. If you notice that your child starts to perform poorly at school or becomes withdrawn then you may need to have further discussions with them about what is happening. It is also important to speak to their teachers and school counsellors so they are aware of the situation and are on hand to provide support and talk to your child if needs be.
For more information on Active Minds please visit the website – http://www.active-minds.co.uk/