How to talk about dementia with children and young people

Children and  young people will find it easier if you talk about dementia together. An important part of a supportive conversation is listening. Ask or allow a child or young person to express their feelings, even if they are negative emotions. 

Listening may be the most valuable part of your conversation, even more so than talking.

When you’re trying to talk to a child or young person about dementia, ask them to express their feelings. Allow them to talk about how these and how changes are affecting them. You might find the following tips helpful. 

Tips to help when talking about dementia with children and young people

Explain what dementia is and what is happening

Explain as clearly and calmly as possible, at a level that the child or young person can understand. Try to get a sense of how much detail they can cope with.

Let them know that their feelings are normal, and that they can speak to you without being judged

Encourage the child or young person to ask any questions they have, and let them know that they can always talk to you. You could also set aside a regular time to talk or do activities together when they can speak with you alone.

Listen carefully to what they have to say

Try to imagine the situation from their point of view. Think about their relationship with the person with dementia. This will help you find out if they are worrying about something specific.

Acknowledge things that are happening that might seem strange

Talk about behaviour of the person with dementia, for example if they are forgetting where they are, or not recognising family members.

Talk about living well with dementia

Focus on the things that the person with dementia can still do, as well as those that are becoming more difficult.

Try to be patient

You may need to repeat your explanations on different occasions, depending on the age and level of understanding of the child or young person.

Reassure them

Give the child or young person plenty of reassurance and hugs, where appropriate. Don’t be afraid to use humour, if it feels appropriate. It often helps if you can laugh together.

What resources can help with talking to children or young people?

Once you’ve talked to them about the person’s diagnosis you can use books, online videos and podcasts to help explain what dementia is. See 'Other resources' for ideas.

Storytelling is a good way to explain difficult situations and help give an understanding of what the person with dementia may be experiencing. Our YouTube channel is a good resource for this. 

To find out about other carers’ experiences and ideas about talking to children and young people, visit our online community, Talking Point.

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