Next time you're debating whether or not your kids should be kept in the dark about your health issues, think of this story. Ashlin Berry was deep in the Wisconsin woods four-wheeling with her dad recently when he fell into a diabetic coma. The quick thinking girl saved her daddy's life that day with a call to 911.
Even more amazing? Ashlin is just 11 years old. But when the fifth grader saw her dad fall off his four-wheeler and start shaking, she did the right thing. She called for help, then used a flashlight to guide that help to them in the dark. Thank goodness she had a sense of what was going on!
Telling our kids that there's something wrong with us is hard. I suffer from depression, and at times my daughter has walked into a room to find me crying. "Why?" she asks. And I can't answer. I tell myself I can't answer because she's 5, and it's a very complicated disease to describe at this age (instead I just tell her I'm sad or I have something in my eye). But if I'm honest, I can't answer because I'm still her hero, and I don't want to let go of that hero worship any sooner than I have to.
But kids need to know what's wrong with their parents. Not everything. They don't need details on your colonoscopy or your exact blood pressure readings, but the bare minimum is good. But they can grasp the simple stuff, that someone has diabetes, and (depending on the type) they may need a quick piece of candy when their sugar level is dropping.
Telling kids what to expect isn't scaring them, it's preparing them. A friend who passed away several years ago from cystic fibrosis had wise words for me -- she could not hide from her daughter that she would disappear into the hospital for months at a time for treatments. She could not hide from her daughter that one day the disease she was born with would claim her life (as it did). But she could protect her daughter with information, by arming her with the knowledge that kept her from being afraid of the "what ifs," by letting her know the truths.
We don't want to scare our kids, but eventually our kids are going to be faced with the side effects of a parent's disease. Better to be like Ashlin Berry, quick witted and prepared to help deal with it, than left wondering what the heck is going on. It's better for the child, and better for you, Mom and Dad.
This little girl is pretty special for what she did for her own dad. And she's just as special for all the other families she could save. Talk to your kids today!
Image via AlishaV/Flickr