Children to Visit Your Parent
Visiting an elderly grandparent who is frail
and ill can be tough for your children whether they're youngsters or
teens. There are things you can do before that meeting to make the
time together less stressful and more rewarding for both generations.
● First, always remember to treat each
child in a way that is appropriate for his or her age. Give your kids
the basic information about their grandparent's condition in words
they can understand. For example, "emphysema" probably means
nothing to them. Tell them Grandma may have trouble breathing and some
difficulty talking. She may need some oxygen. Describe an oxygen mask
what it does and how it helps her to breathe.
● Talk about what equipment is being
used. For instance, if your parent is on an I.V. or has a catheter bag
hanging beside the bed. Kids are amazingly curious and "just
looking around" may be the way for them to pass the time. Let
them know you’ll answer question after the visit with Grandpa.
● Go over appropriate and inappropriate
behavior, whether the visit is taking place in a bedroom, a nursing
home or the hospital. There's no running around. And like a library or
a church, it's a quiet place. And we use our "quiet voices."
● Warn them that all visitors may need
to step out of the room if Grandpa has to take care of some personal
business with a nurse or attendant.
● If Grandma has dementia, talk about
what symptoms the children might see. Explain how she might not
recognize them—or you—and might speak as if a long-dead relative
is still living.
● Remind your children that when they
aren't feeling well they tend to be cranky. The same is true with
grown-ups. Grandpa may seem angry or get upset easily but it's not
because he's mad at them.
● Offer some suggestions for what they
might talk about with their grandparent. They can tell what they're
doing in school. They can talk about their sports team or about their
● Suggest that younger children might
want to prepare some homemade gift, maybe a drawing to hang on the
wall. Explain to older ones that their visit is a gift, one that can
mean a great deal to their grandparent.
● Remember that your children may have
very few, or no, memories of this person, especially if you live a
distance from your parent and, over the years, visiting has been
limited. Your father may seem to be only a little old man lying in
bed. Tell your kids stories about him. About the Dad you knew. This
will help your children understand why it's so important to you that
they see him. So important they get to spend time together. Then, too,
you’re proud of your children and you want your parent to see them.
● It might help to dig out the old
family photo albums. Let your kids see pictures of Mom when she was
young. Celebrating birthdays. Opening Christmas presents. Enjoying a
vacation. Help your children understand she has a history. She has
lived a long life.
● Prepare yourself to talk about death
with your children. Don’t just wing it on the spot. This may be
especially difficult, but just as you talk about how life begins when
there's a newborn around, talk about how life ends. How Grandpa is
near the end of life on earth and what that means. Why it's important
that, just as life is respected when it comes into the world, so it
needs to be as it leaves.
● Talk about how precious life is. And
how, just because someone is bedridden, just because someone isn’t
making money, it doesn't mean that person's life has no value. Maybe
this is a time for Grandma to pray. Maybe it is a time to reminisce
with family and friends and say good-bye. Maybe it is all of those, a
time to prepare for the life that comes after this life.
● Remind your children they will be in
the presence of history. In the presence of wisdom. Tell them you hope
years from now they will remember this day, this visit—this person
who has meant so much to you.
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