Life is tough sometimes. One of the most challenging things a person could ever experience is having a very sick child. Cancer and other diseases are difficult enough to face when you are an adult. Childhood cancer, illness, or accidents are unbearable.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Words of Encouragement or Messages for a Sick Child
- Words of Encouragement or Messages for Parents With a Sick Child
As an adult, you may have gotten some practice writing sympathy messages. You likely know how to offer condolences to family members at funerals. You have been around the block enough to know what to say or write to respond to a difficult situation. But what do you say to a sick child? And what do you say to the parents of a sick child?
The problem is that there are no perfect words to say. Here are some suggestions of what you could say. But remember, at the end of the day, being there for the child and their parents is the best thing you can do.
Words of Encouragement or Messages for a Sick Child
You may feel pressure to come up with something profound to say to a sick child. But you might have no idea what to say. That’s why this article exists. You don’t want to treat the illness like the elephant in the room. The unfortunate reality is that it is always present. It would be strange to not speak of it at all.
But at the same time, have you ever considered that a child who is ill might just want to be treated like a regular kid? Think about what you would say to a healthy child that same age. What would you say to a healthy child that you could also say to one who isn’t well?
Here are some examples of what you could say to a child who is ill.
1. I’m sorry you are going through this tough time.
Everyone values honesty. And this statement is sincere. You could also say, “I’m sad you are going through this” or “I wish you weren’t going through this.”
2. I think about you all the time.
Don’t you feel better knowing you have people around you who care? Let the child know that you care about their well-being.
3. I’m praying for you.
If you are a person of faith, share this knowledge with the child. Tell them a little bit about what you ask for when you pray for them. Make sure you follow up on this statement with actual prayers.
4. You’re so strong to go through all this.
Cancer treatments and surgeries are painful on the body. The child may have gone through a lot of painful procedures. That takes a lot of strength. Share how impressed you are by the child’s ability to undergo all these difficult treatments.
5. You have a great team of people behind you!
The ill child may be feeling isolated at times. Let them know that there are lots of people that care about their journey. An ill child probably has to be seen and cared for by dozens of medical professionals. Doctors, nurses, surgeons, oncologists, and many others form a team of professionals who work hard to help their patients.
6. I love you!
Let the child know that you, too, are a part of their team. Like the other words of encouragement in this guide, you can express this in person, a message, or a card.
7. I’m going to bring you a _____. What are your favorites?
Don’t talk only about the child’s illness. They’re likely ready to talk about some other subjects, especially if they’ve been sick for a while.
Transition your conversation to other subjects. Ask them about their favorite movie, what book they’re reading, or their favorite snacks. Remember, the child is more than a cancer patient. They just want to be treated like a regular kid.
Words of Encouragement or Messages for Parents With a Sick Child
It may be even harder talking with the parents of a sick child than speaking with the child himself. What do you say to parents who are going through the biggest challenge of their lives?
They don’t want to hear you say that, “you understand what they are going through. ” They don’t want you to say that their child’s illness is all “part of God’s plan.” And they don’t want to hear your empty promises that “everything is going to be alright.”
What should you say to the parents of sick children? Here are some ideas.
8. I’m sad that your family is going through this.
This honest and straightforward statement is one of the best things you can say to a person in this situation. Admit when you are sad. It is an appropriate emotion for the situation.
9. I am praying for your family.
Besides praying for the sick child, don’t forget to pray for the family is well. A challenging illness affects all the members of the family. Parents, grandparents, and siblings will all be struggling with the fallout.
Also, consider praying for the support team who is working to find a solution or cure.
10. Let me take care of your lawn, pets, carpools, meals, etc.
Instead of saying, “let me know what I can do for you,” offer concrete things you can do that would be helpful.
Sometimes it is useful if one person manages all the offers of help that the family is receiving. The parents may be inundated with calls and texts offering help. It may be that people offered to pick up the children up from school, or said they could mow the lawn. Or numerous other offers.
If you are particularly close to the family, you could take on coordinating all these offers. There are plenty of apps around that will assist you in this process.
11. How are you feeling?
It can be lonely, caring for a sick child. Parents may not get a lot of time with other adults. They may not get the opportunity to talk about how they’re feeling. And sometimes, those who would ask might think they shouldn’t. To an outsider, it may seem that this question would not be appropriate.
But parents in this situation might want others to understand how they are feeling about their child’s illness. Maybe sometimes they feel hopeful and energized while other times they feel exhausted and sad. Asking them how they are feeling and giving them the space to talk openly is a kind thing to do.
12. Do you want me to update your Caring Bridge page?
Caring Bridge is a website that many people use to share their health journeys with others. Instead of responding to constant texts and calls, a parent can periodically post to the website. The news is then shared with a specific group of subscribers.
If you are close to the family and think that you can do this task offer your time. Before you post anything, make sure you check with the family about what they want to share.
13. I’m dropping by with a coffee. What kind do you want?
Parents with ill children may not want to leave the bedside of their son or daughter for a chat at the local coffee shop. They may not have any time for social activities at all.
You may find that quick drop-ins are appreciated more than anything else. Drop off bagels, cream cheese, and fruit one morning. You can stop by a cafe to pick up some fresh coffee or order some instant coffee and tea for the parents and any other visitors that might drop by. Chat for five minutes, and then let them go on with their day.
Gift certificates for haircuts, massages, or manicures will probably go unused. The parents likely don't have the time for a nice dinner out either. These gifts often come with good intentions, but they may not be practical for someone who has an ill child. Small and easy-to-use gifts will be most appreciated during this difficult time.
14. I love you.
Your friend is probably feeling overwhelmed, scared, and exhausted. Simply let the parents of an ill child know that you are in their corner. Let them know you are there to support their family during this crisis.
Saying the Right Thing
One of the most challenging things about talking with a critically ill person is that you don’t know how they will respond. When a person is in crisis, they may be so overwhelmed with emotions that they don’t react how they normally would.
You may approach a family with the best of intentions and not receive the response that you hoped for. Try not to take it personally, and don’t give up on the situation. Instead, continue to offer your time and support to them.
Sometimes people need more than one reminder before they accept your help. You can take a look at these ideas for what to say when someone is sick if you're looking for other ways to express your support.
Post-loss tip: Sometimes illness is not forgiving. If you are the executor for a deceased loved one, the emotional and technical aspects of handling their unfinished business can be overwhelming without a way to organize your process. We have a post-loss checklist that will help you ensure that your loved one's family, estate, and other affairs are taken care of.