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  • Tell them the loved one is ill and ask them how much information they want about the illness.  Let them know you are willing to answer their questions.
  • Provide accurate information about the disease in language appropriate to their age.  Name the disease and explain how it affects the body.
  • Tell them whether or not the disease is infectious. Children may fear they can “catch” the illness and therefore, distance themselves from their loved one.
  • Explain the cause of the disease.  “Magical thinking” in young children may lead them to believe that something they said or did caused the disease.  Reassure them the illness is never the fault of a child.  If the disease was caused by a certain lifestyle, be aware they will fear for others with a similar lifestyle.  For example, if the disease can be related to smoking, they may begin to hide cigarettes or beg other loved ones to stop smoking.
  • Give them Information about treatment and the expected side effects.  They may wish to accompany the loved one to treatments. They can be told that everything possible is being done to fight the disease.
  • When a cure is no longer possible, tell them this is a serious illness that causes death. This allows them time to prepare.