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Hiding information from a parent: good or bad? Print E-mail
Ask Jean
Thursday, Apr. 19, 2012 -- 12:00 AM

Ask Jean by columnist Jean MuellerQ I come from a family of five — three boys and two girls. Mom is still living, dad passed away several years ago. We have always been “worriers” — with my mom setting the standard.

One of my sisters has just been diagnosed with a serious disease and does not want mom to know because she will worry. I think she should know what is going on but I am the only one. Is it a good idea to hide this information from mom to “protect” her? (A son in Portage)

A My guess is that your sibling is acting out of compassion and maybe a bit of self-protection.

She may not want to deal with the fallout that would occur if your mom learns of the diagnosis.

I would ask each of your siblings to put themselves in your mothers’ shoes for a moment. Wouldn’t you want to know if one of your children were facing a health challenge?

If the news is delivered all at once, it may be overwhelming to your mother. Perhaps there is a way of offering smaller amounts of information at a time so she can slowly absorb the facts and develop some coping strategies.

Family members may be instrumental in helping her with this. I feel if we withhold truth, we rob others of the ability to grow and develop coping skills.

If your mom is close to this sibling, she will probably notice some changes and begin to worry on her own. Would it not be better for her to have the facts? After all, her imagination might be much worse than the reality of the diagnosis.

If the worst happens and your sibling declines, your mom will not have had the chance to spend time with her or to offer her help.

This is a difficult time for your family with feelings and emotions running high. I would give this some time. I bet over the next few months feelings will change.

When the diagnosis is frightening, everyone is in shock for some time but then we each find our own special way of understanding and coping.

I wish you and your family the very best and will keep you all in my thoughts and prayers.

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Jean Mueller has been a registered nurse for over 30 years. Her experience includes working in home care settings, skilled nursing care, and training individuals to become certified nursing assistants. For the past 13 years she has worked in the Aging Services department of the Madison Diocese Catholic Charities.