Looking after a chronically ill child is a task that is one of the most taxing and challenging tasks a parent could face. As a parent, you will have to take care of all the physical, medical, and emotional needs of the child. Apart from these tasks, an additional responsibility to deal with the impact this illness causes will eventually dawn upon you.
Fortunately, you are not alone in this challenging balancing act. You can always use the helping of your family, friends, or even use the aid of support groups or social workers.
Remember the preflight announcements that instruct us to put on our oxygen mask first and then help our children during emergencies.
We can apply the same principle when it comes to coping with your child’s chronic illness.
You need to be in the best position possible so you can look after your child.
Here are some suggestions on how to cope up with your child’s chronic illness.
Educate yourself about your child’s illness:
Being aware of the illness parents will know which behavior is normal and which is not. They will also know what and what not to expect from the child.
Parents make sure that they question their doctors about the illness of their children until they understand completely.
Explaining the illness to your child:
Many parents have a difficult time deciding how much to tell their children about their illness. Some of them may think that this information will be misleading and may cause unnecessary anxiety.
But being completely open and honest with your child about the situation is the best thing to do.
Explain the condition to the child in the terms in which they can understand. Sometimes we can’t predict how the child will react once he/she gets to know that they have a chronic illness.
So please make an effort to help them deal with their emotions by listening and discussing their feelings. Provide constant support and let them know that they can talk to you about their fears and feelings without holding back.
Make sure your child leads a normal life:
Parents should try to treat their chronically ill child as a normal child as much as possible. At the same time, they also have to consider the other distinctive necessities that their child requires. This balancing task can be particularly daunting.
- Don’t be afraid to discipline your child: Many parents are reluctant to set limits with their chronically ill children. However, just like any other child, the chronically ill child needs discipline from his parents. Adequate discipline helps children learn to control their behavior.
- Give your child responsibilities: Encouraging responsibility is one way to help the chronically ill child lead as normal a life as possible. Parents must use their judgment to assign chores that their chronically ill child can carry out with success. Parents should also remember to acknowledge the work done by their children.
- Maintaining daily routine: Parents should, as much as possible, maintain regular family routines (e.g., wake-up times, mealtimes, bedtimes, etc.). Children typically do best when their daily routines are predictable and consistent.
Help your other children cope: A chronically ill child demands a lot of parental attention. It is no wonder that brothers and sisters often feel jealous, angry, and lonely. Therefore, parents need to spend time with their other children to provide a sense of security and help them cope. Parents need to maintain open lines of communication with all of their children. Whenever possible, parents should try to schedule and spend alone time with their other children to help them feel important and loved.
Handling Stress and Emotions
When a child is diagnosed with chronic illness, it is normal for the parents to feel guilty and sad. But being in this mindset will eventually lead you into stress and anxiety.
A study shows that parents who took action and focused on treating their kids to solve the problem experienced a lower level of anxiety than those who denied addressing the situation.
It is best to accept the situation and start taking action to solve the problem in-hand rather than blaming yourself.
Here are some methods that will help you manage your stress while taking care of your child with a chronic condition.
- VENT IT OUT: Talking to a loved one and venting all your emotions will surely be the best way to deal with your feelings. This can be a family member, a person from the support group, or anyone you trust.
- Share your Responsibilities: Splitting the responsibilities between parents whenever possible will ease your child’s healthcare routine. Stress and anxiety will mount up if one parent has to do all the work. Working together in taking care of the child will prevent one parent from becoming exhausted. Giving each other time away from baby duty will provide you a much-needed break. If you are a single parent, it will be helpful to seek help from a relative or a friend to take care of your child and provide you relief by babysitting. Make sure that the allotted person knows the condition and how to take care of your child.
Relax and take time for yourself:
Sometimes, taking care of a child with complex health conditions seems to take up every minute of your daily life. Take some time off once in a while and spend time with yourself or with your partner. Taking this time off will help you rejuvenate and continue to care for your child.
It is necessary to keep your stress levels in check. A study has shown that parental distress has a direct effect on their children’s symptoms.
Build a support team on which you can rely and take some time off. Making time to take care of yourself will eventually help both you and your kid in the longer run.