Recently, because I wrote about having Hashimotos on my blog… a woman reached out to me on social media. She was newly diagnosed and looking for guidance on resources and information. The family and I were out and about, and I was texting her from the passenger seat. My husband was curious as to who I was texting, and I explained the situation: “It is a woman recently diagnosed with Hashimotos, and she is asking me questions.”
My youngest piped up from the backseat: “What is Hashimotos?”
I responded casually, as if she knew: “It is the disease mommy has, it’s what I take my medicine for everyday.”
And then, in the tiniest voice: “Mommy is sick?”
In that moment, I realized I had never explained to my kids that I was sick. They knew I took medication every day, understanding that it helped me. But, that was it. I thought they knew, but apparently not.
I was also in a unique position because of the timing, my Father in Law had just passed away a couple of weeks earlier. I knew that I had to tread cautiously, because I didn’t want her to panic and think I was dying. At the same time, I didn’t want to just brush it under the carpet… since apparently as vocal as I am about it publicly, I’m not so much at home.
“Hashimotos is a disease that mommy has. It is what makes mommy really tired, and have days where I don’t feel really well. It is why mommy will forget things sometimes. I take medicine every day to help me feel better and have as good of a day as possible. “
I felt like this was a good enough answer for a nine year old, and she seemed appeased by it. As I reflect on that conversation, I realize how important it is that we are talking to our family about what is happening with our health. Not in a way that scares our small children, but helps them become aware of what we struggle with each day. We don’t want them to worry, or because we are managing our illness… we don’t think it’s worth mentioning.
But, one day… it might. When our children are filling out new patient forms at the doctor, this information may be important or a clue into what is wrong with their health. Family health history is SO important, and we can’t take for granted that we will be there to answer those questions for them when they are 20, 30, 40, 50+ years old.
There are some instances where it may be best to not tell our children, I recognize that we all know our own children best. What I would recommend is keeping a document with your health info (diagnosis, medications, reactions to medications, procedures, etc… and be sure to include your age at the time of diagnosis/treatment). If your parents, in-laws, grandparents, etc are still alive… ask them too. If you have adopted, and the adoption is open, ask the biological parents for as much info as possible. This could be invaluable as your children walk their own journey of health.