Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Knowledge is power

My Mom recently had a pretty significant health scare; one that resulted in a variety of machines around her once she got home. When visiting with her, I noticed that my kids were very intimidated by the whole thing. Here was their beloved Abuelita, who up to this point seemed healthy and strong, and suddenly she is bedridden with different tubes around her.

They couldn’t escape the room fast enough.

After a brief visit, the kids were leaving with my husband and I asked them to step in to say goodbye. I could tell that they weren’t excited about the prospect—and that they were a bit intimidated.

I brought my son in first. He was really hesitant and whispering. I decided that fear of the unknown can only be conquered with truth. So I (age-appropriately) explained the situation—why Abuelita had been at the hospital, what she needed now that she was at home, and what the different machines and tubes did to help her. My Mom nodded as I explained this and told my son that she was working to get better soon. Suddenly things seemed back to normal.

When my daughter came in to visit, she wasn’t as hesitant and started talking about a book she was working on. During a pause, my mom asked me to explain to H. the same things I had explained to T. As I did, I could see my daughter physically relax.

When a grandparent (or parent) has been active and healthy, and then suddenly is not, it can be scary. T. even told me at one point when I first shared that Mom was hospitalized that he didn’t want to hear any more. He didn’t want to think about it. But when faced the reality in front of you, it’s harder to avoid.

Having worked at a hospital for children in a previous life, I had the opportunity to learn from experts about what kids need to hear. They need to be comforted and they need to understand what the machines do to help. Pretending the machines aren’t there or ignoring the fear doesn’t get you very far.

My mom was impressed with the matter-of-fact way I approached the information with the kids. When the said goodbye, they hugged her—they weren’t scared of the tubes anymore.

It’s a good reminder that kids are just like us sometimes. Knowledge is power. We just have to remember to give it to them.  

Reace Alvarenga-Smith is a Mom of two in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

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