RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–When Suzanne Toth’s husband was diagnosed with ocular melanoma, they had two young sons. When their father died two and a half years ago, the boys were both younger than 10 years old.
Suzanne Toth not only cared for her husband through his illness (a cancer of the eye), she also walked their sons through the experience. For her, honesty was the best policy.
“When you’re open and honest with your kids, to their age level, about what’s happening, they’re better able to accept it,” Toth said at the SomeOne Cares conference in Ridgecrest, N.C., in October.
SomeOne Cares conference speaker Staci Ruth Stoelting taught breakout sessions focusing on helping children cope with caregiving or grief in the family.
“It’s incredibly important that we reach out to children who are dealing with chronic illness of someone they love,” Stoelting said. “If you influence one child, you influence the world for Christ.”
She offered some tips for ensuring that children aren’t left behind during a season of caregiving:
— Reach out. Don’t forget to say, “I love you,” or to hug your child.
— Listen hard. Ask open-ended questions that require more than a yes or no.
— Remember to laugh. Try age-appropriate movies or a joke box.
— Avoid transforming your child into a counselor by unloading your emotional baggage on him/her.
— Ask someone you trust to observe your child objectively and assess what kind of impact the situation may be having.
— Maintain normalcy when possible. When accommodating the sick loved one’s care, try to minimize changes to your child’s life and schedule.
Brooklyn Noel is a writer for LifeWay Christian Recourses.