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Are you hiding your illness or unpleasant relationship from your kids?

By Ritu Garg

Contributing Author for Spark Igniting Minds

While reading a book by an Indian author, Jerry Pinto titled "Em and the Big Hoom", I was totally sucked into his life. His young years were a whirlpool unleashed by his mother’s bipolar personality and bouts of clinical depression. And I seriously think that dealing with the ailment and the family dynamics that follow such an illness added so much character to his life. I am not saying it was good that his mother had this rather serious indisposition. Not at all. All I am trying to say is that in most circumstances, we tend to offer our kids a very protected and unmarred life. An ideal life which is sans any disharmony such as financial, health and relationship crisis as we constantly worry about their emotional well being and see to it that nothing should lead to any insecurity in them.


However, we want them to be courageous, bold, knowledgeable and sensitive. And we leave no stone unturned to teach them lessons of life either through other people’s lives or through stories, plays, movies, and various other methods. I am sure almost all of us have either shown or have wanted to show our kids movies like ‘Life is beautiful’ and ‘The pursuit of happiness’ to teach them that life can be bloody tough but we can still turn it around.

Closer home, we have told our children stories of late Chief Minister of TN and how she had such a tempestuous childhood and lost her mother very early to whom she was very attached. We narrate stories to them from the life of Oprah Winfrey who had an absolutely unenviable childhood marred by sexual abuse and teenage motherhood. And both these women made such coveted success stories out of their lives, which were doomed in the beginning.


We expose them and encourage them to become a part of NGOs which work with children suffering from cancer and disabilities and children who were orphaned and deserted by their parents. I agree that we truly and genuinely want to help these people with other purposes in mind too, like inculcating in our children the habit of valuing what they have and trying at the same time to sensitize them to all hurdles of life.

But surprisingly, when some disease affects us, we become extremely cautious about sharing it with our children. I find it paradoxical— in fact, this is the true test of their courage and resilience. Probably it is an opportunity to truly train them to face the realities of life.

We become so protective. Why? Why don’t we realize that life is not a bed of roses? It is indeed a big struggle—struggle against odds. And any adversity can be turned into an opportunity to create value out of it.

Of course, in an ideal situation, no one asks for disease and challenges—but when it comes to it, one should not hesitate.


When one of my friends was diagnosed with an intestinal disease known as ulcerative colitis, the name sounded like a death sentence. My friend and her husband decided on their way back from the doctor that they will not tell it to their kids. After all, it will affect their studies; it will make them insecure. Every discussion happened in a hush-hush manner and kids started worrying to an extent that they felt some conspiracy was going on against them. A communication gap developed between the kids and the parents to the extent of polarizing the family. The mother was always stressed and wary of ‘what if the kids find out’. This stressed her so much that it started hampering her convalescence. But what led to it was a situation wherein their life became full of pretentions and lies, making the family completely dysfunctional and on the verge of breaking apart.


However, my friend joined an online community of people with ulcerative colitis. And she happened to meet a few mothers of her age group. One of them seemed so emotionally sound and balanced. She told my friend that the day she came to know about her condition, she decided to share it with her family and kids in the most rational manner. She even laced it with humor. She did not harbor any inner fear. Instead put it out – telling the aspects of the flare-up of the disease and remission periods, the morbidity, the maintenance, and all.

Think about it carefully. If the kids know it -

  • It makes them responsible.

  • It trains them to take initiative.

  • It makes them compassionate.

  • It prepares them for life.

  • And above all,

  • It makes them oriented to understanding a new thing—

  • Life is not in books, it’s in life itself.

Be inclusive, don’t exclude them. Therefore, she decided to turn the adversity into an opportunity to teach her kids the coping mechanisms – they started reading about ulcerative colitis, there were discussions on the physiology of the disease, and there was no communication gap. Rather, it brought the family much closer.

Charity begins at home and so does clarity.

About Ritu Garg

Ms. Ritu Garg

Ritu Garg, a wordsmith.  She collects words like a philatelist would collect stamps or a numismatic would collect coins. Words give her power,  She shares a relationship with them. Words make her thoughts tactile, tangible and transferrable.

She is a management graduate in finance. She has a strong passion for languages, history, social institutions, food, fashion, parenting and health and now following writing and translation as her profession.


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