As parents, few things are harder than watching our kids struggle through being sick. This pain becomes more poignant when it goes beyond a cold or chickenpox and becomes a chronic illness.
Depending on the nature of the condition, it can mean frequent trips to the doctor, having to abstain from certain activities, and even an inability to attend school. In many ways, it makes it tougher to just be a kid.
As parents, it’s our job to keep our kids as healthy as possible—but it goes beyond that. We must find ways to help kids cope with chronic illness so that they can experience as many of the joys of childhood as they can.
Improve the Home Environment
Kids with chronic illness often spend more time at home than their peers, so you’ll want to make sure the house is both healthy and easy to navigate with their condition. As far as health goes, that means a clean home without glaring sources of infection. You’ll need to ensure clean surfaces and improved indoor air quality, especially if your child has a respiratory condition.
But you don’t want to make your child’s illness the center of their surroundings either. Get them involved in decorating their own space. Make it colorful with non-toxic paints, find ways to showcase their interests, and make sure it’s comfortable—especially if they spend a lot of time laying low.
Inform the Whole Family About the Illness
A diagnosis like this impacts the entire family. Keeping the entire family in the know will help your child cope with chronic illness.
Make sure you sit down with your other children and teach them about the nature of the diagnosis and exactly what it means for their sibling. Let them know if there are ways they can help or how their lifestyle may change. And most of all, make sure they know that they are loved too.
Create Opportunities for Socialization
Chronic illness doesn’t only impact physical health. Being in constant pain, missing out on activities, and the idea that one’s body “doesn’t work right” can take a toll on a child’s emotional well-being.
That’s why focusing on a child’s emotional health is just as vital. Keeping them from feeling isolated is a big part of that. Create opportunities for interaction with their peers, such as:
- If you are homeschooling, try to join a homeschool cohort.
- Find community activities that aren’t too physically trying, like a book club.
- See if the local library or park district offers extracurricular classes like art, star-gazing, or creative writing.
- Get in touch with other families on the block to see if you can arrange for playdates.
- Look for support groups for kids with the same illness.
Socialization applies to you too. It’s easy to isolate yourself when you are caring for a chronically ill child. Finding a support group to help hold you up will help refresh you so that you can offer your best for your child.