First, understand that it’s normal to feel shock, anger, guilt, helplessness, sadness, and anxiety after learning of your child’s diagnosis. It’s important to recognize that these emotions are a natural part of the adjustment process.
It is important to talk to your child about their new diagnoses and also make sure they have the support they need. Keep in mind that everyone has a unique response to stress and all individuals cope in their own ways. Following are among the strategies you may find helpful.
- Try to attend appointments, especially the first couple, with another adult. It’s often difficult to take in all the information you’re given. A companion may help you remember and may think of questions that hadn’t occurred to you.
- Keep a notebook handy to file important paperwork, make notes, or jot down questions you may think of when away from your care team.
- Pack some special items that will help your child feel more secure, such as a favorite blanket or a comforting toy. If your child is old enough to help, letting them contribute to some of these choices may provide a sense of control.
- Take time to take care of yourself. Your child needs you, so make sure and address your needs as well or you might burn out.
Coping with an Illness
Children’s Health recognizes that outstanding medical care is only one facet of treatment. Offering truly comprehensive care for your child and family means providing you with the resources and support you need every step of the way.
When your child needs medical attention, the more you know, the more power and control you have over the situation. We want you to have reliable and helpful information at your disposal so you are confident in making important decisions about your child’s medical, emotional and psychological care.
Children’s Health has many books for all ages filled with useful information about hospital stays, different treatments and medical procedures. We also can point you to several online resources with family-friendly, easy-to-understand guides so you are able to find any information that you may be required to make the best choices for your child.
Taking Care of Your Family
Children’s Health℠ knows that family life is an essential part of treatment, and we want your family to be as well cared for as our young patients are. Like the airline oxygen mask instructions say, you need to put your own mask on first before you assist another. In other words, it’s important for you to support yourself, your spouse and your other children in order to provide the best support for your child who is being treated for an illness or injury.
Staying Connected with your spouse:
One of the best things you can do for your child’s confidence and mental well-being is to remain loving toward your spouse and the rest of your family. The stress of having a sick child can fray your nerves and cause tempers to flare, but remember that when so many aspects of a sick child’s life are in flux, the stability of a caring family is vital.
Accept help from family and friends:
Accept offers of help so you do not allow yourself to become too isolated from other family members and friends. Recognize that exhaustion and sleep deprivation are the norm, but set up a support system for each other. Remember that even when parents don't agree on what is best for their child, they should not keep score or get angry when one parent’s opinion is chosen instead of another’s. Know that social workers are available at Children’s to provide counseling so that issues like burdensome medical expenses do not cause arguments and marital strife.
Caring for your child's siblings:
A child’s illness also affects siblings, and they are just as important in a family’s life. Encourage brothers and sisters to ask questions and, if you cannot answer them, arrange for them to speak with an expert who can.
Inform teachers or counselors at school so they understand the stresses at home. If you have to be away from home, communicate with your other children with letters, photos, phone calls, texts or videos about what the patient and parents are doing.
Stay involved in the sibling’s activities and events that are happening while you are away. This assures your other children that you are still interested in their lives even if you cannot be there. When you can be there, try to plan times for one-on-one time for each other child so just the two of you can do something special together -- even if it’s just having a snack or reading a story together.
Caring for a patient is a family job, but caring for the family is equally important for long-term success for young patients.