If your IBD is not severe, or you are in remission, you may feel that it is not necessary to tell your child. You may also decide not to worry your children, particularly if they are young or sensitive.

However, with some children, not telling them can cause problems. Some children are very sensitive to tension and stress. Even young children may sense that something is wrong, particularly if they overhear an adult conversation about your IBD, or perhaps see you take medication for it.

If your child realises that you are unwell, the fact that you aren’t telling them anything may make them misinterpret the situation. What they are imagining may be far worse than the truth. The fact that you are not talking about it may suggest to them that it is a subject too terrible to talk about, and they may even believe that you will die from your IBD. Some older children might worry that you have cancer.

Also, some children can feel deeply hurt if they are not told about what is happening. It can make them feel very anxious and left out, even unwanted. Children often think differently from adults. Many young children have simple cause and effect logic. Some children might start blaming themselves for their parent’s illness, especially if their parents aren’t talking about it. For example, they may think, ‘I was cross with Mummy when she told me to pick up my toys. Then she was ill. Maybe I made her ill.’ It is important for children to understand that your IBD is no one’s fault.


Telling your child that you have IBD may well help avoid problems such as those mentioned above – and can also have positive benefits. Parents often underestimate their child’s ability to cope with the truth. Telling your child can help to build a strong relationship of trust, making them feel included and valued.

It can also make your family feel closer, and you less stressed, especially if it helps our child to understand why you sometimes cannot do things and may need help when you are feeling unwell. Once you have told your child, you will not have to watch what you are saying so closely or perhaps feel secretive and isolated within your own family. This may also mean that other people are more comfortable that they do not have to keep your IBD a secret from your children any longer. And that might make you feel less anxious too. Dealing with IBD in a family can also be an opportunity for children to learn about the body, treatment and healing. They can learn about working together to deal with difficult situations.


As a parent or carer, it is usually best if you tell your child, if you feel up to it. It may reassure your child if it is you who tells them, rather than someone else. You may find it difficult to talk about your illness, but it can be helpful to show your feelings and emotions. If you cry, you could explain that it is because you are upset about your illness. Seeing you cry gives your child permission to cry too. Acknowledging and sharing your feelings in this way means you can give your child more support.

If you hide your feelings entirely, you might find that your child feels they have to do the same. It could mean that they find it harder to open up about their worries in the longer term. However, try not to reveal acute distress because this may upset and worry your child.

You will know if you can be the one to tell your children. If you do not feel up to it, or feel unable to talk about your IBD without becoming really upset, then it might be a good idea if your partner, or another close relative such as a grandparent, could do it. It may be helpful if you are there as well so that you know how much your child has been told, and how they reacted to the news. Your child will also probably find it less frightening if you are there to reassure them.