Children and Sickness: Tips for Dealing with Long Term Illnesses

Most children are blessed with never having to deal with any particularly severe illnesses. While most children will have their share of colds, flu, fevers and sore throats, they won’t have to deal with anything that lasts for longer than a week or two.

Unfortunately some children will have to deal with some very serious illnesses. Being sick for a long time, months or years, will take its toll on your child’s physical and emotional state. But your child won’t be the only one affected by their illness. Taking care of a child with a long term, severe illness is often extremely debilitating for that child’s parents.

Here are a few tips for how to make the process easier for both you and your child.

Expect Unpredictability

No two children will react to the same long term serious illness in the same way. Some children might remain very well behaved the entire time, others may continuously act out. Some children might understand that their illness is just something that happens, while others may feel like they did something wrong and their illness is a punishment. Some children might understand that you and their doctors are doing everything possible to cure them. Some children might get made and you and their doctors for not being able to cure them fast enough.

It’s impossible to predict how your child is going to react to their long term illness. While they might be maintaining a positive outlook at first, it’s reasonable that their personality will change after months and years of illness and treatment.

It’s impossible to know what to expect from your child, with big personality shifts sometimes occurring from day to day. All you can do is remain as flexible as possible, and to not take anything they say or do personally.

Retain Normalcy

Whether your child will be in the hospital for the majority of their illness, or if they will be attending school as much as possible, it’s important to maintain as many routines and as much normalcy as possible.

Serious long-term illnesses can make schooling and your child’s social life difficult. They will be regularly pulled out of school, and it’s natural that other children will eventually wonder “why?” Serious prolonged illness often makes it hard for children and teenagers to develop a normal social life, as it tends to signal them out as ‘different’ which creates distance between them and other children.

You only have so much control over this. It’s a good idea to encourage your child to be as social as possible and to have as much of a ‘normal’ childhood and school experience as they can. You must always reinforce in your child the belief that they aren’t so different, and that their illness need not define them.

Take Time for Yourself

This is the hardest thing that the parent of an ill child can do, but it might also be the most important. You have to take time away from taking care of your child and their illness if you are going to make it through in one emotional piece.

If you have other members of your family who can help out, enlist them. Even setting aside one night a week where you simply do something that you enjoy, when you aren’t on call or directly dealing with your child’s illness, can be a life saver. And if you are still married to your child’s father or mother, taking this time out to simply be with each other is necessary for the health of your relationship.

There is nothing easy about having a child with a long term illness. But if you follow these tips, than everyone involved might just make it through emotionally intact.

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