The Big Pink Elephant in the Room
There’s a Big Pink Elephant, running around my house!
When our health/medical coaching client is also a parent, it’s important that we as coaches understand that a parent’s illness or Medical crisis affects the children. All children.
If this effect is unaddressed, it can feel like there is a big Pink Elephant running around the house, bumping into the furniture and NO ONE is talking about it or telling the Elephant to behave.
When children cannot understand or name the change they create the “worst” scenario possible to make sense of it and the “Pink Elephant” turns in to MONSTER.
Parents have the power to prevent this and empower their children by simply talking about it.
In this post, I am going to address several ways you, the coach, can help your health/medical coaching clients talk with their children about the “Pink Elephant” in the room.
The basic three principles parents need to follow:
- Create an undisturbed space for this conversation.
- Give the child reliable, age-appropriate information.
- Include a pro-active action plan that includes both you and the child.
Every conversation needs to include these three points:
- Address the illness by its correct name so that the child can differentiate between it and daily health issues.
- Acknowledge the various ways the illness affects the life of the sick person as well as the lives of others in the family
- Align expectations in an age-appropriate way
Tips for parents on how to create age-appropriate conversations:
Kindergarten: 2 to 6 years
- Use the child’s language
- Use metaphors from the child’s world
- Be sensitive to the child’s attention span
- Use clear and short sentences when delivering information
- If you use the word “wound” you need to distinguish it from other possible age appropriate wounds
Elementary School: 5-6 to 12
- Explain who will take over the care provided so far by mom/dad
- Expect very detailed questions about the body and the illness
- Provide detailed, comprehensive information as much as the child requests, make sure to keep it age appropriate.
- If appropriate for your child, visit the location of the treatment and introduce the child to the healthcare team (inform the team before you show up)
- Provide precise, detailed, comprehensive information as much as the child requests
- Remember this child is still a teenager, dealing with teenage stuff.
- Be prepared for any reaction, and remain respectful and empathic.
- Maintain structure, routine and boundaries at home
- Keep communication channels open
- Openly address the issue of privacy, if it is important for you to keep the information within the family
3 reoccurring questions which need to be answered patiently and lovingly:
|Did I Cause this illness in any way? (by doing or not doing something)
|NOTHING you have done has caused this illness!
You do not have to go into details. You can say: “Although little is known about the cause, one thing is certain – you did not cause it.
|Can I also get this illness?
|If the illness is not contagious or genetic – clearly say: “There is no way you can get it. “
If the illness is contagious – clearly address and demonstrate all the ways to avoid infection.
If the illness is genetic – we recommend getting support from a therapist or Medical Coach
|Who will take care of my needs
|Give clear, age-appropriate information about the action plan around this child’s needs.
Make sure to ask if there are additional requests and questions.
If you found this useful share your thoughts and then share this with someone that can benefit from it.
Master Medical Coach
CEO of MCI – the Medical Coaching Institute