How to Do the PD Talk with Kids

Children are full of wonderment and awe. Question after question after question (yes, the list is usually long), it can be exhausting answering every inquiry, but somewhere inside each adult, there are good intentions to help little ones grow and understand the world around them. But, what if an adult is challenged with explaining a topic that may be far removed from childhood innocence?

A topic like Parkinson’s disease (PD). How does anyone explain to a child that Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement? How does anyone soften the news for young ears that Parkinson’s disease can’t be cured?

And young kids are curious. When they see behaviors or actions that look unlike themselves, they can stare. Especially if they are looking at someone who may have trouble walking, talking, trouble chewing, swallowing, speaking, or doing simple tasks. How are any of these details like this explained?

Telling children difficult health news is something no parent likes to face, but it does happen eventually in every family. How we share this news is something to consider—especially with sensitive children or young children who might not fully understand what we’re sharing should we say it wrong. And the KIDS HEALTH website offers a wonderful link on Parkinson’s disease that is written specifically with all these thoughts in mind.

I’m thinking if we maintain open communication with children from the time of diagnosis onward, then this mindset may lessen the likelihood of suddenly surprising a child with difficult news later on. Keeping children up to date at every stage can make breaking tough news easier.

However, whenever, or whatever we do for kids in sharing news about Parkinson’s disease, I hope that we can keep in mind that children can feel insecure during heavy or serious conversation.

They may want to get back to normal as soon as possible. This may mean returning quickly to the game they were playing or the TV show they were watching. This doesn’t mean the child didn’t hear or understand. We have to give kids a chance to process the information—just as we would.

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