Raising the Chronically Ill Child: How to Help them

Raising or parenting a child with a chronic illness is one of the most hectic and challenging tasks of a parent or a family as compared to others. Although the parent may adapt to what the whole task entails, they occasionally fall prey to uncontrollable emotions which come out of seeing their child suffer ailing pain. In many cases, these parents are faced with difficulties in decisions making, such as whether to accept a recommended medical procedure.  Perhaps another major trauma encountered by these parents is also that of helping the child cope with illness. The following are some key insights.


Give information about the Illness to your Child

It’s normal for a parent to experience difficulties in deciding how, when and how much to tell the child about his/her illness. This is because the parent is afraid that this may evoke anxiety and extreme worries to the child, further aggravating his/her health. On the other hand, concealing information or giving misleading information may arouse trust issues in the child.

In that case, it’s always good to maintain honest communication with your child, as this may help him/her adjust to reality and plays a role in determining the child’s wellbeing. Apparently, children especially those aged over 3 years are perceptive of their health and are likely to detect when the parents are not totally sincere with them. It’s thus good to tell the child that s/he is sick and that’s why s/he will be receiving lots of care and treatment.

Be sure to answer any questions with honest and clear answers. Many doctors will provide the parent with the opportunity to talk to the child about the illness and the treatment expected. Thus, be clear and choose words carefully when communicating to the child.  If a medical procedure will hurt, always tell the child that “this may hurt a little”, rather than “it won’t hurt”, as this will prepare them psychologically and trust you.

Learn to control your emotions

It’s normal for the parent to experience tough emotions about the child’s condition. Similarly, the child will endure difficult feelings and concerns about the health status and the possible fate. It’s important to allow the child to express his/her feelings to you freely as this will help ease his/her pressure and anxiety.  Allow different methods of expression of feelings including verbal, drawing, or writing.

Afterward, you should take time to encourage the child that everything will be okay. Avoid expressing negative emotions, such as crying or stress before the child as these might evoke unnecessary emotions, such as anxiety and self-pity. Whenever overwhelmed by emotions, excuse yourself and move away, ensuring you avoid expressing them before the child. For instance, avoid temper or angry outbursts at home to avoid unnecessary tension with the child.

Ensure the child leads a normal life as much as possible

Try your best to treat the ill child just like the rest. For instance, encourage the child to participate in various activities undertaken by his/her age mates. Ensure s/he goes to school and is equally competitive in school activities. Also, discipline him/her and model good behavior in the child. Discipline provides a foundation for structure and security to the child, which is necessary for controlling their behavior and other elements of good living.  However, it’s important to be careful and putting into consideration the child’s special needs and vulnerabilities.

Give the child responsibilities just like the rest

Children need to be involved in responsibilities to shape their various developmental aspects. Similarly, the chronically ill child needs to be assigned age-appropriate chores. The benefits of giving responsibilities include promoting self-esteem, which is garnered through accomplishing a task, development of work ethics, and abilities to follow instructions, among other virtues requisite in life. Assigning same responsibilities to the chronically ill child as the others helps him/her feel capable, equal and strong. This may help him/her not to dwell on his incapacities or vulnerabilities.

Prepare your child to possible reactions of others, such as peers

Children with chronic illness may become the center of attention to the rest, especially before they understand or get acquainted with him/her. For instance, children might have never seen a child using special tools like inhalers or reliant on medication, which might attract attention at school. This might distress your child, especially if not psychologically prepared for it.

It’s important to inform your child that such occurrences will be common, and given him/her insights into how to handle them. For instance, teaching the child how to concisely respond or answer questions about his/her illness may help prevent him from suffering frustrations. Additionally, it’s essential to teach the child how to cope with potentially harmful situations. For instance, train your child on how to handle teasers, such as by ignoring them, or providing a humorous reaction.

Be mindful of how you talk about your child’s condition

Ensure that the child does not overhear negative talks about his illness, such as how the illness is straining the family, the existing financial constraints that may affect his/her access to medication or blame games surrounding his/her illness. In any case, the family should always appear supportive of the child and strive to promote his/her optimism.

Look for role models

After learning about their illness, chronically ill children may feel isolated and different. However, meeting people with the same or related illness may reassure them, knowing that they are not alone. Some states prepare camps for children/people with different chronic illnesses, which provide avenues for them to meet and nurture their self-confidence and esteem.

Research and continue educating yourself about your child’s illness

It’s important to seek to learn about the child’s condition and gain insights about how you can be helpful, and where to solicit support. Being informed may also empower you with knowledge of how best to take care of the child at home and when met in particular unanticipated situations.


Last Updated on September 19, 2021