How to Help Your Child with the Emotional Side of Sickness

Often when we think about sickness we focus on the physical side of their illness. We think about their temperature. We think about whether they are vomiting or not, whether they have diarrhea or not. We think about whether they are in pain, or whether they have a lot of congestion and heightened mucus production. We think about whether they’re sleeping enough, and whether they have an appetite. These are all important factors that you need to think about and monitor when considering the health of your child. But they aren’t the only factors you need to take into consideration.

Your Child’s Emotional Health during Sickness

While sickness can take a serious toll on your child’s body, it can cause just as many problems to your child’s emotional state.

No one likes to be sick. Even adults who have been sick many times don’t like to be sick, and often feel depressed when their health is compromised. Think about your own health, and the way that it affects your mood. Have you ever noticed that you tend to feel more and more negative, emotionally speaking, when you are sick compared to when you’re feeling healthy?

This change of mood isn’t a coincidence, and it can affect children ever harder than it affects grownups. Adults have been sick often enough that they know what to expect. Children, with their lack of experience being ill, often feel that much more powerless and despondent when they’re sick.

The Most Common Emotional Responses

It’s a good idea to know what your child is likely to feel when he or she gets sick, especially when they get their first illness more serious than a quick cold or fever.

A child is likely to feel that their sickness is some sort of punishment. They might even think that YOU are causing them to get ill for something that they’ve done. It can help to explain to your child where illnesses come from, and why they really are getting sick (germs), but a rational explanation isn’t always going to do the trick with helping a child feel better about their condition.

Children often get angry when they are sick. Their anger can be directed at a lot of sources. Your child might get angry at you for being unable to make them better. Your child might get angry at their doctor for not making them healthy immediately, or for making them take medicine. More often than not your child will just feel frustrated in general, and will lash out in anger because they don’t know what else to do to express how lousy and upset they’re feeling.

Dealing with Emotional Fallout

The first thing you need to do is exhibit as much patience as possible with your child. If your kid feels that their sickness is a punishment, than you aren’t going to prove them wrong by yelling back if your child yells at you. Remember that what your child says has little to no real grounding behind it, and do your best to keep from taking it personal.

It’s important that you take care of your child as warmly as possible. Many parents have found success by spoiling their child a bit when they are ill. While you never want to spoil your child too much, giving them a little extra attention and TLC during times of sickness can be a great way to remind them that you really care and are doing everything you can to help them through this trauma.

When your child is sick there is only so much that you can do to heal their body. But if you remember that you need to treat their hurt and vulnerable psyche as much as you have to treat their body, than both of you will survive their sickness with a stronger bond than ever.

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