How to Deal with a Chronically Sick Child

Dealing with a sick child is difficult at the best of times. There are so many things to worry about, ranging from the trivial (who will do the car pool instead of me?) to the more serious (I wonder what’s wrong with my child?). After a few days, your child is usually on the way to a full recovery, and normality is once again restored to your household. Unfortunately, not all childhood illnesses follow such a brief and predictable course. Some children develop illnesses such as cancer or kidney disease that can take an exceptionally long time to respond to treatment, and chronic ill health of this sort dominates a family. A child with long-term ill health has an instinctive desire to get better, and the more emotionally secure the child is, the speedier her physical recovery will be, especially if their family has a great family health care facility that they trust.

A chronically sick child has the same psychological needs as a healthy one. True, an ill child has additional requirements, such as the need to be reassured that she is going to get well eventually, the need for appropriate cancer care or medical treatment, and the need for lots of rest. Your child’s basic emotional needs remain the same (though perhaps a little stronger) as they would have been had ill health not loomed on the horizon. Every child thrives best in a family in which she feels cared for and in which she experiences structure and consistency. Without these qualities, your child will feel insecure.

You may ease your standards of discipline when your child is ill. After all, she is less active and far less likely to break the rules.

Although it is perfectly understandable when parents “spoil” their sick child—and we are all guilty of this at times— abandoning family routine altogether has a number of poten­tial dangers. First, a sudden change in the rules may confirm the child’s worry that something is terribly wrong and increase her unconscious fears that her illness is serious. Second, abandoning family routines may cause relationship difficulties: within a short time you may find yourself coping not only with a chronically sick child, but with a chronically sick child who thinks she can do as she pleases. Your other children might also be confused about this relaxation of family rules.

Adjustment from ill health to normality can be difficult enough (with such tasks as restoring self-confidence, becoming independent once again), without the added task of relearning the guidelines.

You must be flexible. There will be occasions when you “turn a blind eye” to your chronically sick child’s behavior. Of course, you should fuss over her and do everything you can to make her feel comfortable and happy. Of course, you should spend as much time with her as you can, to keep her from feel­ing lonely and miserable. But this is quite different from aban­doning structure altogether.

Another way to help your chronically ill child is to establish some form of routine in her daily activities. To a child confined to bed all day, time can seem to drag. She may begin to focus on negative aspects of life—the boredom, missing her friends, wor­rying about school work. Make it a matter of routine that, if at all possible, your child gets up from bed for meals, that at a spe­cific time of the day she reads a book, and that she has a bath every evening. Incorporating these routine events into her life may seem rather tedious from your point of view, but from hers, regularity of this nature can be welcome. It enables your child to anticipate the day’s events, just as she would during a normal day when she is in good health.

Give your child occasional surprises. A surprise visit by one of her friends can prove memorable; the unexpected present of a book or game can perk up a dull day.

Filed Under: Lifestyle & Personality


About the Author: Alan Kennon lives a very happy life with two kids and a lovely wife. He likes to share his life time experiences with others about how they can improve their lifestyle and personality.

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