They worry about
Will they get better?
Will they die?
It’s my fault they are ill …. this should be a question, but a child may simply believe it without questioning.
Is it the other parent’s fault? or someone else’s? A brother or sister’s?
Am I the only one who loves them?
How long will it they be ill for?
If I want it to come to an end quickly, does this mean I’m a bad person?
What if the other parent dies or leaves?
How will I manage to look after my ill parent on my own? (even when they wouldn’t really be left on their own); they need to know who would step in; how to contact them.
How will I look after my (healthy) parent if the ill one dies? (they are often not very clear about who needs looking after; they often think more of others’ needs than their own; imagining they have no needs)
Who will look after me? Who will look after my brothers, sisters, grandparents….? Will they be able to cope with me? Will they like me? Will they prefer someone else? Will they let me eat what my parents let me eat?
When parents only speak reassuringly, children sometimes worry that the parents don’t realise how serious it is: they can think that they are the only ones worrying.
Children feel reassured when they know parents have thought about the things they worry about.
Parents seldom know what their children worry about; they are always surprised; often they are surprised how easy it is to find solutions for the children’s worries.
Parents usually fear that the children’s worries are the same as the parents; they are surprised to find they are quite different.
It is hard for parents to listen to children telling their real worries because the parents are afraid of their own worries.
Segal, Julia and Simkins, John. (1993) My Mum Needs Me. Helping children with ill or disabled parents. Penguin Books, London.