I believe children always live up to what we expect from them. I believe in being honest with them and answering their questions as fully as possible and giving them as much information as they want to hear. Their minds can conjure up scenarios that can be much worse than actual reality.
That said, they are still NOT adults and we have to temper our responses with that in mind.
I have always tried to be honest with my children about their grandmothers' fight with this monster of a disease. My children are both adults 28 and 22 and they handled it beautifully, but I always tried to be honest about the prognosis and progression of the disease.
Teenagers are hard in that they are no longer little kids but not yet adults. It's hard for them to ask the necessary questions. I would try and have a casual conversation while doing something else. You might want to ask them how they feel about what is going on and ask them if they have any questions they need answered. Don't push but let them know you will always be available to answer whatever they need to ask.
Be honest with how you feel about the disease. Tell them you too are frightened and unsure of how things will go. Promise to be honest with them.
It may be another family member will be helpful. My nephew (26) had a very difficult time with his grandmother's death. He was unable to go to her viewing and the funeral was tough for him. He did not want to see her in a casket. He was a little more comfortable talking to me (his aunt) than he was talking to his mom. He didn't want to upset her.
And most importantly...you know your children better than anyone else. Listen to your heart and "gut" feelings when talking to them. You will know when and what to tell them.
Hospice has some great literature on counseling and dealing with terminal illnesses. Check on their website.
Hang in there....it's part of this journey.
Oh and check my signature line. My son emailed this about a minute after I had responded to his email about his grandmother's prognosis.
Many hugs and much love,
My Mom lost her one year battle with CC on April 3, 2009.
"A prognosis is simply an audit of how truly precious each day is. Live each day to the maximum, celebrate what was, and what is - Don't spend your life looking forward to what will or might be." .... words of wisdom from my beloved son on hearing of his grandmother's CC prognosis.