Source: Salvatore Vuono,

Last week, for the first time, I saw my daughter react as if she knew that she was different. We were in her pediatrician’s office getting her routine 3 year old check up and the doctor began to ask how she was managing with Sickle Cell Anemia. The doctor spoke about the importance of getting the flu vaccine and precautions that we should make to keep our daughter healthy.

I vaguely remember having a talk with my daughter some months ago about how she needed to keep her body healthy, eat good foods, and what healthy living is all about, but the big “You have Sickle Cell” was not discussed.

While the doctor talked about the side affects of sickle cell and my daughter’s future. Our daughter placed one small finger in each ear so that she could not hear the doctor’s words. At that moment, my heart sank. I knew immediately that she was reacting this way because she understood every word the doctor said. When my daughter began to cry, I felt like I wanted to take her outside of the room so that she could not hear, but I didn’t. I just assured her that it was OK. If I could remake the world for my child, reshape her cells, and give her a clean bill of health,  I would; without a moments notice.

Now, my husband and I are faced with the task of sitting her down and talking to her about her body, her cells, and the disease that lives within her, but will not define who she is. All of our actions with our children are motivated by love, but telling your children about the differences he or she possess can sometimes be hard.

In the back of my mind, I wonder is 3 years old too early. Maybe and maybe not. Because she is showing us that she is aware of her differences, I feel that it is time for me to teach her about it on a small scale and let her know how we are managing it and working to keep her crisis free. I plan on using pictures as aids, but my overall goal is to reassure her that mommy and daddy will be working hard to help her keep her body healthy and strong.

Questions For You

  • I am wondering how other parents have told their children about an illness that he or she has.
  • What age did you think was appropriate?
  • Did you talk to your child alone or did you make sure both parents were present?
  • Did you use visual aids?
  • Were you afraid or nervous?
  • How did your child react after receiving the news?
  • What would you have done differently?