Children as relatives of patients
Children or teenagers in your family?
This information is for anyone with children or teenagers in their family. You may be the patient, a relative of the patient or the parent of a sick child who has brothers or sisters.
We want to ensure that the children and teenagers in your family are well taken care of at our hospital. Children are affected when someone in their family falls ill. They need the adults around them to be open and honest about what is happening.
We always ask our patients if they have children or brothers or sisters aged under 18. We ask the patients themselves or whoever accompanies them to the hospital, such as the patient's parents.
We like to find out how the children are doing. We do this by asking questions such as:
- What are the children's names, and how old are they?
- Where do the children live, and who is looking after them while the patient is receiving treatment?
- What do the children know about the illness and the treatment?
If the children feel the need for information or to be followed up, we usually ask more questions about:
How the children are doing
- What the children want to know more about
- How the illness is affecting the family's everyday life
- Who can act as resource persons for the children in the family or neighbourhood or at school
Conversations with you about the children:
- What have the children experienced? What are the usual reactions and how do you and the children talk about what is happening? Other subjects might be what it is like for you as a parent when there is illness in the family
- Conversations with the family or with the children alone: the children's names, how their everyday life has changed, whether everyone has the information they need, how the family is handling the situation, and what will happen next
- Make arrangements to accommodate visits by children and teenagers to the hospital.
- Information about good places to find information, help and support
- Contact and cooperation with other services (such as the public health nurse, school or other services)
Some useful tips for the family
Children need openness when a family member falls ill. By openness we mean that you talk about what is happening and how it feels. Children also need to be involved in making decisions and be allowed to contribute by doing chores they are capable of.
In the section below you will find useful tips on things that might be a good idea to do before, during and after treatment. Different treatments last for different periods of time, so this advice can be read all at once or at different stages during the course of the treatment.
- Tell the children about the illness and the treatment as soon as possible
- Think about what the children might already know, what they do know and what they might be wondering about
- Be open when you tell the children what is happening. Be honest. Use words they understand and encourage them to ask questions if there is something they wonder about
- Consider showing them written information, pictures or video films that explain the treatment, the illness or the hospital. Make use of the information provided by the hospital or on good websites
- Plan how you will keep in touch while in hospital (phone, messaging, chatting or hospital visits). Write down the contact details for the hospital and leave it somewhere at home where everyone knows where to find it
- Plan what is to happen at home and write lists of everyday things like mealtimes, homework, housework and after-school activities
- Are there any special events in the children's lives that must be kept in mind, such as birthdays?
- Talk to the children about who will be informed about what happens, such as family members, kindergartens and schools
- Ask the children who they think should know about the illness and whether they want to tell people about it themselves
- Talk to the children and teenagers about what they can say if someone asks them about the illness or treatment
- Tell the children about the treatment and the prognosis. Be honest and specific
- We can offer advice on how you can talk to the children about this. We can also have conversations with the children, either alone or together with you
- Talk to us about hospital visits and about who should be the contact persons for the children
- Agree on how you will keep in touch with each other during treatment
- Encourage the children to continue their normal everyday activities
- Keep in touch with family members, kindergartens and schools
- If you receive bad news, wait until you have had time to react before informing the children. Involve other adult caregivers and ask the healthcare personnel if you would like them to be present when you tell them. Do not wait too long before telling the children.
- Spend time together. Continue to do the activities you enjoy or find new ones
- Talk to the children about how the illness and treatment have affected them and the family
- Tell the children that they can feel and think whatever they want and that it is OK to want to be alone or together with friends. Encourage them to continue their normal after-school activities
- Talk to them about what will happen in the time ahead with the illness, work and the family's everyday life
- Talk to the children about their chores at home. Are they suitable or should they be changed?
- Say yes to offers of help and support, no matter how big or small, from family members, friends, neighbours, kindergartens and schools
- Keep in touch with schools, kindergartens and after-school activities and keep them informed about the family's situation and the progression of the illness
- Talk to someone if you are worried about the children
Do you want to know more?
Read more about what children need, where you can seek help and how you can talk to children and teenagers at helsenorge.no (in Norwegian only).
Children can have their travel expenses covered when they visit their parents, brothers or sisters in hospital. Read about how to apply at Pasientreiser (in Norwegian only). You can also ask us at the hospital.