Having the organ donation talk with children
This booklet from Teacher toolkit #1 titled "The Organ Donation Conversation" provides dos and don'ts for how to have a kitchen-table talk at home about the powerful impact of organ donation and why it's so important.
There are so many important topics to cover with our kids. Organ donation is one such chat that is too often not covered at all! Yet having these conversations are vital. They set us and our kids up to live happier and healthier lives – knowing that whatever we may face in the future, we are prepared.
Children under 4:
Children under 4 are probably too young to grasp any complex issues about their internal bodies and organs. But they are certainly interested in what’s on the outside of their bodies and pointing these things out is a good basis to build on for later conversations about what’s on the inside.
Point out your ears, tummy, fingers and toes, with simple explanations about what they do.
Start talking about what’s on the inside of our bodies: the different organs and what makes our bodies tick. You could say, for example, “Here is your heart beating, can you feel it going boom boom?” or “Here is your tummy where the food goes” and “Here are your lungs that breathe and take in oxygen from the air”.
Take the lead from your child and don’t worry if they really don’t seem interested in this - all children develop at different rates, and not all will be ready to take it in. You can also start to talk to them about what foods and exercise strengthen which body parts.
Perhaps begin talking to your kids about how people get ill sometimes and different organs might not be working properly. Use the Orgamites as a way of introducing the subject in a friendly and positive way, focusing on how each organ can be replaced so people that have been ill or in an accident can go on to live long and happy lives with their new organs.
Remember, children this age are very smart and really take in facts you are telling them. They have memories like elephants. Be sure to prepare what you are going to say to them, as they are likely to question you on it again later!
At this age, children can begin to understand proper explanations and will realize that people can get sick and die. You should always stress that this is very unlikely in children - that most live a very long life, but that just occasionally a child can be ill or in an accident.
Talk about your own feelings about death, and what your choices are regarding organ donation. You can also watch case studies on the Orgamites.com website, or point out news stories where a child had their life saved as a result of receiving a donor organ.
- Be age appropriate
- Think multiple chats, not one big heavy conversation
- Teach through play
- Look at picture books together
- Use the Orgamites to help keep it fun
- Focus on the positive messages of survival and healing thanks to organ donation
- Let your child lead you in the conversation and ask as many, or as few, questions as he or she needs
- Be confident and positive; your child will react to your emotions
- Be sensitive to any child that is uninterested or seems to be getting upset
- Don’t rush straight into it, with anyone of any age
- Don’t force a child to listen
- Don’t focus on what it means to be a donor; concentrate instead on what it means to be a recipient
Totally not fazed: A lot of kids are surprisingly unsentimental and will move on from these chats fairly quickly.
Quiet: It’s also normal for kids to not say much at all as they process the information they’ve just heard. They’re probably okay, but it’s worth checking in with them a bit later to see if they have any questions or concerns.
Upset: In this case, stop the conversation, reassure your child, and change the subject. Come back to it when they’re ready.
The Orgamites Programme is presented by All Good Co. which is a UK-based Community Interest Company. Current partners include: Live Life Give Life, Team Margot, Giving to Help Others, Onassis Foundation and Canadian Blood Services. Supported by NHS Blood and Transplant, Organ Donation Scotland and the European Society for Organ Transplantation (ESOT). Created by Roydon Turner. ©Copyright, Creative and Production by *Awesonova. All rights reserved. Discover more at Orgamites.ca or Orgamites.com