Each child copes with a parent’s kidney failure in his or her own way. It may be tempting to try to keep kidney failure and dialysis a secret to “protect” your child. But the unknown is nearly always worse than the truth—and children always seem to know if something is going on. If you don’t share what’s really happening, your child may imagine something that is much scarier. Even a 2- or 3-year-old can understand simple concepts like, “my kidneys don’t work well anymore, and dialysis helps me to feel better.”
Some children may not know what questions to ask, while others may ask difficult ones to answer. Answer a child’s questions honestly, giving only as much detail as needed for his or her age and ability to understand. You know your child best. To answer his or her questions, you’ll need to arm yourself with information about kidney disease and dialysis treatment:
- Start out with simple facts about kidney disease and how it is treated.
- Explain that people with kidney failure have lived long, happy, and full lives and that you intend to do the same.
- If you will be doing your treatment at home, explain that there may be times you’ll need to be alone to do your dialysis or to rest.
- If you’re on peritoneal dialysis and have small children, you may find the cycler makes it hard to tend to a little one’s needs during the night. You can ask for a tubing extension that will allow you to reach into a child’s room, so you can be on hand for a bad dream or an illness and still get your treatment.
- For anyone who has treatment-related equipment in the house, explain how important it is not to touch any buttons or dials on it.
Your social worker or counselor can provide you with resources to help your child come to terms with your illness. Watch for clues about how your child is dealing with your disease, and seek professional help if your child is having trouble coping with his or her fears.