As a parent, you want the best for your child. Whether in their academic life, personal life, or health, you want to do everything possible to help your child thrive in the world around them. This desire — to help your child blossom into a great person and give them the opportunities to achieve their goals — can make your child’s chronic illness one of the most challenging things for a parent to face.
You may feel sadness, guilt, or even anger when you receive the diagnosis and throughout your child’s life as they learn to live with illness. These feelings could be directed at yourself, a partner, your family’s history of illness, the world as a whole, or even sometimes at your child. These feelings — while unpleasant — are not uncommon, and they do not make you any less of a good parent on their own. But, unless you learn how to cope with them and accept and help your child manage their illness, you may be unable to provide the care and support your child needs as they make their way through life with their illness.
Luckily, there are many ways for you to provide this much-needed support — for both your child and yourself. Today, we’ll explore how you can cope with your child’s chronic illness by understanding how to best support your child and yourself as you both move forward from the diagnosis.
Supporting Your Child
The first thing many parents want to know when it comes to coping with their child’s chronic illness is what they can do to provide the best support they can for their child. While the exact manner of support will depend on your child and their chronic illness, in general, there are a few crucial ways you can provide this kind of support in their lives.
Like any other child, children with chronic illnesses need structure, routines, consistency, and, of course, love and support.
Some of the best ways to support your child are:
- Maintaining regular routines and schedules
- Communicating openly and honestly about your child‘s illness, your feelings, and what is going on in your lives
- Setting and keeping up with consistent expectations
- Enacting appropriate disciplinary methods when your child lashes out (rather than being tempted to let it slide, which can be detrimental to helping your child learn to take responsibility for their actions)
- Helping them stick to their treatment plan by providing clear explanations, praise for adherence, and appropriate limits and consequences when needed
- Working closely with your child’s school as well as their teachers, mentors, and/or coaches
- Encouraging them to share their feelings and struggles with you, a counselor, or a support group
- Avoiding power struggles by offering your child choices in what to do whenever you can
Remember, the specific type of support your child needs will depend on what they need. If you are concerned about not being able to provide (or figuring out) the type of support your child needs, talking to your child’s healthcare team or seeking support from a child therapist can be an excellent way to ensure that you and your child are both getting what you need in terms of support.
How to Support Yourself
Now, while many parents may focus exclusively on how they can best support their child, it is critical to ensure that you are taking the steps needed to support yourself as well. If you are not taking the time to take care of yourself, you’re not going to be able to provide the support your child needs either. So, remember that you must also make time and space for yourself — even if you don’t feel like it is a priority.
Coping with your child’s chronic illness can be emotionally and physically draining. And because of this, you need to make an effort to nourish yourself in various ways each day. Some great ways to ensure you are not neglecting your own mental and physical needs include the following strategies.
Find Your Support Community
For you, this community may be your friends and family. Or maybe you find the support you need in a local community group for other parents of chronically ill children. No matter where you find your support, the purpose of this group is to have a safe place where you can express your feelings and worries. Community support groups can also be a good way to learn about new strategies that other parents in similar situations to yours may use in their own lives.
Share the Responsibilities
Trying to take on all of the responsibilities that come with helping your child cope with their chronic illness (and coping with it yourself as well) can be incredibly challenging. For families that have two parental figures for the child, it is incredibly important to discuss who will be responsible for which aspects of taking care of the child. Some families may be able to create a relatively even split of responsibilities, while others may require one of the parental figures to undertake more of the responsibilities.
The key to ensuring that you and your significant other or co-parent can continually provide the type of care and support your child needs is to ensure that you are both on the same page about who is taking care of what tasks. This helps you ensure that both of you can take breaks from care duties and have time for taking care of yourselves.
If you do not have a co-parent with whom you can share some of the responsibilities, you may want to see if you have another family member or close friend who can help out from time to time. Even though this will typically still result in you providing care for your child most of the time, it can still help you get some much-needed breaks where you can do the things you need to do for yourself to avoid burnout.
Keep Up with Your Own Health
It may not seem like a priority when taking care of your child suffering from a chronic illness but taking care of your own health is one of the most important coping techniques you can do.
So, ensure that you make time in your schedule to do things that make you feel good physically and mentally.
This may include scheduling self-care time where you give yourself a relaxing spa session or doing one of your favorite hobbies. It may mean going out for a walk through one of your favorite parks. Perhaps it means ensuring that you are making healthy eating choices or sticking to a nightly sleep routine.
Talk to Someone
Whether you decide to talk to your family or other loved ones or seek a support group or personal counseling, talking about what is going on in your life can be one of the best ways to effectively process your feelings.
Seeking professional help through a therapist or counselor can be a great way to help you talk about what you are experiencing and discover ways to help you manage the stress in your life. Keep in mind that finding the perfect fit in a therapeutic relationship can take a few tries. Still, once you find the right fit, therapy can be an excellent tool in helping you cope with not only your child’s chronic illness but also the other challenges you may be experiencing in your life.
So, if you are struggling to manage your feelings after your child’s diagnosis, or you are simply looking for additional guidance on how you can better support yourself so you can provide better care for your child, please do not hesitate to reach out to us today at Love Heal Grow to get in touch with one of our therapists.