Most parents are familiar with the feeling of dread that comes along with a child’s illness. Watching your little one suffer can be heartbreaking. And while some illnesses are only a matter of time, like a common cold, in more severe cases, like a birth injury, you might need to cope with it for life.
While there’s no magic cure for making your child feel better, there are certain things you can do to help them (and yourself) cope.
Here are our top tips for parents to help manage stress after receiving a diagnosis.
Do Your Research, But Know When to Stop
It’s essential to educate yourself on your child’s condition. You must know what the possible triggers and the symptoms look like and how to manage them best. It’ll help you navigate day-to-day life and feel more in control. If your child has sustained a birth injury, get complete information about the condition and the legal help you need.
That being said, there’s such a thing as too much information. Constantly reading about your child’s condition can be overwhelming and even lead to anxiety or depression. If you find yourself getting lost in the internet rabbit hole of research, it’s time to take a break. If there’s something that you need to understand, your child’s doctor is a more reliable source of information than the internet.
Work with Your Medical Team
Managing a child with conditions like Cerebral Palsy, Spina Bifida, Autism, or any other long-term condition can be challenging. However, your medical team can help you identify if the condition results from medical negligence, something widespread in birth injury cases. And if that’s the case, there are resources like the Birth Injury Justice Center where you can find lawyers to offer legal assistance.
You must also develop a relationship with your child’s healthcare team and understand their roles. Be honest with them about your child’s progress so they can devise the best possible treatment plan. We recommend keeping a notebook or log of important information, like medication dosages and appointments.
Avoid Comparing to Others
You’re going through a rough patch, and it’s easy to start feeling like everyone else has it better than you. Maybe you see another family out and about and feel envious that they don’t have to worry about their child’s health.
Try not to compare your family’s situation to others. Everyone has challenges, and you don’t know what’s happening behind the scenes. Comparisons will only make you feel worse.
Even if there’s a child with the same condition as your kid, every case is different. So what works for one kid may not work for the other, and that’s okay.
Lean on Your Support System
Managing a child’s illness can be emotionally and physically exhausting. You’ll experience days when you want to cry, scream, or curl up in a ball. But it’s justifiable and normal.
What’s not normal is trying to go through this alone. So, don’t be afraid to lean on your support system for help. Your friends and family can pitch in with childcare, run errands, or be there to listen.
You can also join a support group for parents of children with similar conditions. Again, talking to others who understand what you’re going through can be beneficial.
See a Counselor
There’s no easy day when parenting a child with a chronic illness. You might feel like you’re on an emotional roller coaster. These fluctuations in mood are normal, but if they impact your day-to-day life, it might be time to seek professional help.
A counselor can provide you with tools to deal with the stress of parenting a sick child. They can also offer an objective perspective and help you see things you might miss.
Adjust Your Home Life
If you have other children, include them in the conversation about their sick sibling. They might be feeling jealous, confused, or even scared.
Try to maintain as much normalcy in your home life as possible. For example, if your child is going through treatments that make them tired, they might need to sleep more. That’s okay. You can still have family dinners and game nights. Just be flexible and understand that things might be a little different for a while.
There are also some physical changes that you can make to your home to ensure your sick child is as comfortable as possible. For example, you might want to install a wheelchair ramp or get a hospital bed.
Make a Hospital Stay More Comfortable
Certain conditions require frequent hospital stays. If this is the case for your child, there are some things that you can do to make their experience more bearable.
Pack familiar comfort items like your child’s favorite stuffed animals or blankets. Include a few entertainment items to help them distract their minds. Books, coloring supplies, and handheld games are good options.
If your child has special dietary needs, pack snacks and meals that they can eat. You should also find out if any restaurants near the hospital deliver.
Also, establish a daily routine and schedule with the hospital staff, so your child knows what to expect. It also helps to bring in family photos or decorations to make the room feel more home-like.
Don’t Give Up Hope
You’re the solid rock your child can lean on when feeling weak. So, be their strength when they need it.
Technology has come a long way recently, and new treatments are always being developed. So, even if your child’s prognosis is not optimistic, don’t give up hope.
You never know when a breakthrough will happen. In the meantime, focus on enjoying every moment with your child. Teach them to laugh, love, and live life to the fullest.
Watching your child live with a chronic illness is one of the hardest things that you will ever go through. But don’t give up.
Your child may already be dubious of the world and their place in it. But, as their parent, it’s your job to show them that they are valued and loved no matter what. So, be their cheerleader, their advocate, and their rock. With your love, your doctor’s assistance, and your child’s willpower, you can all get through this together.