Talking to your child about MS

Why tell my child?

Choosing when and how to tell your child about your MS is a personal decision. Although parents may avoid telling their child because they want to protect them, there are important reasons to consider telling them:

  • Children are very perceptive. Even if you try to hide your condition, your child will realize that something is wrong. Often, what your child imagines is far worse than the actual truth. Telling your child about your condition in an age-appropriate way can help ease your child's anxiety.
  • Telling your child can relieve stress for you and help your family fight MS as a team.
  • Telling your child can help build trust.

When should I tell my child?

Every child is different, so you'll need to use your own judgment. Generally, it's a good idea to tell your child soon after you are diagnosed. This decreases the chance that your child will worry about what is going on. Take your cue from your child and the events in your life: if your child seems concerned or preoccupied, if they ask questions, or if they notice your symptoms, this could be a good time to tell them.

What should I say?

Don't worry about finding the perfect words – there's no "right" way to tell your child. Think about what you want to say ahead of time. You may wish to consult doctor or contact the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada ( to learn more about the condition. Keep the following in mind:

Give your child some reassurance. Children often wonder if their parent with MS will die prematurely, or if MS is contagious. You can reassure your child that these things are not true. Let your child know that even though your symptoms may affect your ability to do certain things, you will always be there for them as a parent.

Tailor your information to your child's age and maturity level. Very young children (under 3) don't understand the concept of MS, but they pick up on your mood and are mostly worried about separation from their parents. Children 3-6 years of age may worry that your MS is a punishment for something they did wrong. Reassure them it's not their fault. Older children (ages 6-12) understand the concept of MS as an illness and may want to know what they can do to help. Adolescents and teens may be concerned about balancing their own life as an independent person with the responsibilities of helping out at home. Get them involved in deciding how they can help the family, and encourage them to have their own life as well.

Be prepared for different reactions. Your child may react to the news with a variety of emotions. She may have many questions. If so, do your best to answer them. If there's something you don't know, say so, and then find the answer. You may want to consult your doctor or contact the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada ( for questions you're not sure of. If your child is not asking any questions, ask him what he thinks or how the news makes him feel.

You may also want to give your child some age-appropriate reading material and videos on MS – check with your local MS society.

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