Telling your children

A nurse sits with a father and his daughter.

Talking to children or grandchildren about your heart or circulatory condition can be difficult, especially if you are still adjusting to living with a condition.

We have advice which may help. 

Talking to young children and dealing with change

Telling your child that you’re not well can be difficult and may require a lot of patience on your part. One of the main things that's likely to change when you’re recovering from a heart attack or if you have a heart or circulatory condition is that you may not be as active with your children as you’re used to. While you should certainly aim to be as active as possible, there may be times when you won’t feel able to do as much.

Younger children

It’s important to work out ways to spend quiet time together and use the help you have available when appropriate.

For example, if you feel breathless, use a pushchair rather than carrying your child or ask a partner or friend to help you pick up a child from the ground. If you’re finding lifting difficult, it’s easier to hold them if they’re passed to you.

My dad's heart attack is a free illustrated story book available to order for under 11 year olds.  The book explains what happens when a family member has a heart attack, the tests and treatments involved and the changes that will happen to family life. 

Older children

It's up to you how much you tell them and at what point. While they may understand that you're ill, it can be distressing for them and you if you can’t keep up with their level of activity. 

One way to deal with this and still play an active and supporting role is to recruit friends or family to come and take over when you need them to. It’s important not to exhaust yourself, even if you feel up to it. 

You can also point older children to websites like ours where they can find out about your condition independently. Working out ways to help involve them in your health – like helping remind you to take your medication, helping you with the shopping, and other tasks – can help you all adjust together. 

Getting the support you need

It can be very difficult to rely on other people, but getting extra support – however you go about doing that – will help. It also helps your children adjust to the changes in your life.

Helping children come to terms with death

One of the most difficult things a parent will ever have to go through is helping a child understand why their mum, dad, grandparents, or a brother or sister just isn't there anymore. 

Winston's Wish is a charity which helps and supports children and young people after the death of a family member. 

We've also developed the Small Creature animation, designed to support young children aged 3-11 who are dealing with grief. It can help the child in your care think about the things they never got to say to their loved one and how to hold onto all the memories they have of them.

Small Creature loses his best friend, Bird, and starts experiencing all sorts of feelings as he tries to deal with his loss. The friends he encounters along the way give him ways to deal with those feelings and help him understand that help is always at hand.

Support and information

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