Talking to Your Child About the Liver Transplant

The items below may help you talk with your child and answer his questions about the liver transplant. Answer his questions honestly.

  • A liver transplant is no one’s fault. Many children believe a liver transplant is caused by something they did, said or thought. Explain that what your child thinks, says and does will not cause his liver transplant. It is no one’s fault.
  • A liver transplant is not contagious. Your child did not “catch” the need for a liver transplant from someone else.
  • Liver transplant surgery is when a doctor takes out all or part (for liver) of the organ and replaces it with a donor organ. Your child will be given special medicine (anesthesia) that puts him in a deep sleep so he does not feel or see anything, not even pain.
  • Tell your child how healthy bodies work. Avoid using “bad” and “good.” Instead use “sick” and “healthy."
  • Talk to your child about his feelings. Let him know that any feeling is normal. Many times children feel angry, guilty, sad, lonely, scared and sometimes even happy. Be honest with your child about your feelings.

How to Talk to Your Child About a Liver Transplant

Many parents want to protect their child by not telling them things that could be scary. Your child is more afraid when he does not know what is happening. Benefits to talking to your child about his liver transplant include:

  • Building trust in you and the hospital staff
  • Knowing what to expect
  • Offering honest information that corrects false ideas about liver transplants
  • Helping him cooperate during treatment
  • Helping give him a sense of control
  • Helping him learn how to get through hard situations

It may be hard to tell your child about his liver transplant. Children know when something is wrong and may feel lonely and separated from family and friends.

  • Think about your child’s age when choosing words to explain his liver transplant. The child life specialist can help you find ways to explain tests and treatments.
  • Children learn from doing, seeing and hearing things many times. You may need to explain the liver transplant again.

How Do I Discipline My Child During Treatment for a Liver Transplant?

A liver transplant can disrupt your family routine. Your child is the center of attention and may receive gifts. Although he may feel sick, gifts and attention are fun. It is easy for him to feel special and want special treatment to last.

Discipline can be a problem when special attention stops. Your child’s illness can make discipline hard. Pain and side effects of treatment can make any child short-tempered. He may act more helpless when he feels sick. Medicines may also cause your child to feel ill tempered.

You may feel helpless when you see your child suffer. You want to help him by giving special rewards. These feelings are normal. Keep the same rules he had before his liver transplant. Keep these ideas in mind to provide limits:

  • Set clear limits your child can understand.
  • Realize limits may need to change as your child receives treatment.
  • Praise him and give rewards for good behavior.