I am a big believer in having tough conversations with my kids. Unfortunately, I'm not always very good at it. Some concepts are hard enough for adults to understand, let alone small children who don't have a lot of worldly experience. But kids do meet tough subjects in their lives and it's worth discussing. I am grateful to the authors who tackle these topics so that we have a jumping-off point when discussing life with our children.
I was only 9 when my first grandmother began developing dementia. A few years later, my other grandmother also developed the disease. As a child, it was hard to understand why Grandma did funny things like waking up in the middle of the night to start her day, pouring orange juice on her cereal, or cooking the oven timer in the oven. I was a teenager before I really understood what was happening to the woman I loved so much. It was a long, sad and sometimes scary loss. Dementia and Alzheimer's can be very frightening illnesses for kids to encounter.
I wish that back then I'd had access to Grandpa Has Changed by Jennifer Moore-Mallinos. This book describes a child's reaction to the news that his beloved grandfather has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and how the family copes with the changes the disease brings. The book teaches children to handle their suffering loved ones with care and compassion, not fear, and helps to answer some of the hard questions like "why does Grandpa dress funny" and "will Grandpa still be able to play with me." The book teaches hope for the good times and understanding for the hard times.
I am grateful that my children do not yet have to encounter this illness. But I know that if someday our family is touched by this disease, they will be better equipped for that journey after having read this book. The dialogue has been started and now I have a platform from which to answer their questions -and for that I am grateful.