How I told my 8yo about hospital

So, I had a convo with my 8 year old daughter as we were driving to hospital. She couldn’t understand why I was going again. I looked fine, she said. I didn’t look sick at all, she said.

I had to think fast. I couldn’t possibly explain it ALL in the same way I would an adult. I had to ‘kidify’ my response, and I had to do it carefully.

So I said ‘you know the part of you that makes you happy or sad? My part that does that is broken’.


More silence.

This is a smart kid, I’m dreading the further questioning. I’m dreading the fact that I might have to ‘un-kidify’ my explanation. After a time, she asks

‘Is that your heart, mum? Is your heart broken?’

‘No honey, these feelings come from your brain and my brain is very confused right now, and that’s why I’m going to hospital’

She just said ‘ok’. And left it at that. And has done so since. She asked maybe two or three times when I was in hospital if my brain was working yet. I would just say ‘it’s getting better every day’

Trying to explain mental illness in an age appropriate fashion is not easy. She doesn’t know what bipolar is. I didn’t want to scare her in any way. I know that over time, she will learn more. She will understand more. But for now, this is enough.


One thought on “How I told my 8yo about hospital

  1. Before I had ECT, my bro came and visited me and brought his two young children along. At 3 and 18 months, they were/are still too little to understand what a psych ward in a hospital means. I wonder how I would have explained it if they were older. Sometimes I’m not sure that I understand my illness either. I love that L checked your progress when she saw you. And I’m glad that your heart is not broken. You are fierce and strong. xx

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