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What Kids Need to Be Reminded of When They're Sick

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I’m struggling to balance the demands of my own illness, work, and my newly ill child. Luckily, this tough balancing act doesn’t have to be done alone.

Many parents can become frantic when their child has a chronic illness, but the right perspective can make all the difference. Instead of seeing it as an inconvenience, look at it as an opportunity to re-bond and reboot. A day of story-time, chicken soup, and snuggling could be just what the doctor ordered—for both of you.

I’ve always had honest communication regarding the struggles I face with my illnesses with my daughter. Being honest is vital to helping a child adjust to a serious medical condition, whether it’s theirs or a parent’s.

It’s important for a child to know that he or she is sick and will be getting lots of care. The hospital, tests, and medicine may feel frightening, but they’re part of helping your child feel better. Try to avoid saying, “this won’t hurt” if the procedure is likely to be painful. Instead, be honest if a procedure may cause some discomfort, pain, pressure, or stinging. Communication doesn’t always have to be verbal. Music, drawing, or writing can often help kids express their emotions and escape through a fantasy world of their own design.

Kids also may need reminders that they’re not responsible for the illness. It’s common for them to fear they brought their sickness on by something they thought, said, or did. Reassure your child that this is not the case, and explain in simple terms what is going on. Regardless of their age, it’s important for kids to know there are people who love them and will be there for them, and they’ll be kept comfortable.

It’s never easy to find a healthy balance between caring for yourself and caring for your family members. Chronic illness makes that even more challenging. There’s no perfect way to do it. The important thing is to keep the goal in mind, evaluate ongoing needs and make adjustments when necessary, and remember to be as kind to yourself as you would be to someone else.

Originally published: June 11, 2018
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