Explaining you can't visit someone who is ill

Explaining to children and young people why you can’t visit someone who is ill

In this difficult time of coronavirus, we are all restricted from getting together with family and friends in the way we would like. This is particularly painful when someone important to us is so seriously ill that they might die, and we can’t be physically near them. Even though they are surrounded by people who are caring gently and kindly for them, it can be very hard to be apart from them. For children in the family it can be difficult to explain why they cannot visit.

Explaining to children and young people why they can’t visit

Be honest and clear: “Grandad is ill and he is being looked after in hospital. We can’t visit him in hospital because we don’t want him to catch coronavirus which would make him more ill.”

Answer questions honestly and if you don’t know the answer it’s ok to say that. You could say that you will find out the answer and get back to them.

Check that they have understood what you have told them and be prepared to repeat information several times, especially with young children.

Give children permission to show their feelings by being open about yours. Let them know that it is ok to be sad or angry but that they can always talk to you about it.

Ways to stay connected with someone who is ill

Even if you can’t physically visit a loved one who is seriously ill, there are ways that children and young people can feel close to them.

  • If they are well enough you could video call them
  • Record a video or voice message that could be sent to their phone for them to watch any time
  • Write a letter or card or draw a picture that you could post to them or send them a picture of
  • Send them something special to hold and think of you
  • Listen to their favourite music
  • Cook and eat their favourite meal
  • It can be comforting to have a pair of toys, hearts or other loved objects, one of which stays with the family and the other which stays with the person who is ill

The Childhood Bereavement Network and the National Bereavement Alliance have brought together more suggestions to help families stay connected at this very difficult time – you can download it here. They have also produced a downloadable sheet with ideas for young people to try out, to help them stay feeling connected and look after themselves when someone important to them is seriously ill – download it here.

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