Parkinson’s: A Parent’s Guide to Talking to Your Kids

3 minute read

By Kristina Kirkaldy

A Parkinson’s diagnosis impacts the entire family. One of the many challenges at first is sharing this news with children. It’s important to provide reassurance. Continue searching online for tips on how to share this news with kids of all ages.

Parkinson’s is hard to live with because it’s a complex neurodegenerative disorder and affects everyone differently. The symptoms are hard to hide, and kids are naturally intuitive so they are likely to get a sense that something is not quite right.

Why Should I Tell My Children?

Again, most children can sense when something is “wrong” so it’s not the best option to keep yours’ or a family members’ diagnosis hidden. Though your first instinct might be to protect your child from every bad thing in this world, it’s also important to be realistic because keeping this type of news from them may be worse than not telling them at all.

A child might get it in their head that the diagnosis is their fault and start to feel guilty. If you let them know early, they may be able to understand better that it something that has happened out of their control.

Telling your children about the diagnosis may also provide you with some relief, especially if the symptoms are severe.  This knowledge may make an episode less frightening for them.

Explaining the Symptoms to Your Children

It’s important to use simple terms when explaining the symptoms that you or your family member will start to experience after being diagnosis. Firstly, you should address the physical symptoms to prepare you child for what to expect. This can include:

Common Questions to be Prepared to Answer

Children like to ask questions so it’s important to be fully prepared as some of their questions may be quite difficult to answer If you’re put on the spot. Here are a few to prepare for:

How did you get Parkinson’s?

This question might stem from them thinking they did something wrong, again, reassure them that it was out of their control.

Will you get better?

It’s important to let them know that although there is no cure for the disease, there are medications that the doctor has given that can help with the symptoms. Let younger children know that scientists are working so hard to try to find a cure.

Can I tell my friends?

It’s important to teach your child exactly how to explain the disease to their friends, as you don’t want them to scare their friends in to thinking their loved one has it or will develop it.

Will it happen to me?

Younger children may think that the disease is contagious so it’s important to address this. For older children, prepare to answer questions regarding genetics (there has only been a few cases that genetics played a part).

Will you still be able to do everything you used to do?

It’s important to not lie about this one. Tell your child that some activities will be affected. Let them know that there will “good days and there will be days that rest will be needed.”

Are you going to die?

Any child, no matter their age, needs reassurance that everything is going to be alright. Parkinson’s is not a terminal illness and with the right medication, symptoms of the disease can be controlled.

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Kristina Kirkaldy