Children with a Brain Injured Parent Want Honesty, Inclusion

Parents often think that protecting their young children from the truth about a spouse's injury will spare the children. But sometimes kids imagine something far worse than reality.

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When we're working with children, our basic, sort of core values and beliefs, are that we need to be as honest as possible with children-- children of all ages--but obviously that needs to be handled very, very sensitively. We know from experience, and we know from talking to other children, that the issue that has bothered them most is feeling excluded, feeling isolated, feeling that people haven't been honest with them. And we've spent a long time talking to children about their experiences, children who've already been through the process, and asking them what could we have done differently if we could start over. And the overriding message from children is that they do want information. They do want honesty. And we know that often what they imagine is sometimes worse than the truth, and so we need to take responsibility for that. But, there's a great fear on the part of parents that if we tell children what's happening, we will upset them. Children are upset already, and we need to kind of bring that into the forefront and be able to manage it. One of the most common worries that children hold is that they might have been responsible for their parent's injury. And we see that in children of all ages, although younger children perhaps, pre--sort of 7 years old, are perhaps more developmentally vulnerable because children of that age think that most things revolve around them and are because of them. I think that 8 out of 10 children that I have spoken to somehow have developed a story where maybe they're somehow responsible. And that's a lot to carry, and that's a lot not to share. And there's definitely a relief in children when we tell them that's not how brain injuries work. That's now how people get sick, or that's not how people get into accidents.
Posted on BrainLine December 18, 2012.

Produced by Victoria Tilney McDonough, Justin Rhodes, and Erica Queen, BrainLine.