Being forced to watch a child suffer with chronic illness is one of the most painful experiences a parent has to endure. One of a parent’s main responsibilities is to protect their children, and when a child has a disease that causes extreme pain and discomfort, parents are often helpless to do so. Most parents in this situation will do whatever it takes to relieve the suffering of their child. However, sometimes their actions unintentionally cause more problems than they solve. The following are some ways to avoid compounding the difficulties associated with the chronic illness of your child.
1. Don't be overly permissive with your child
Sometimes parents allow their sick child to do or have whatever they want in order to make up for the pain that they are suffering. However, established patterns, routines and rules will help your child feel a sense of security and continuity – they especially need things that they can count on. You should be mindful of the possibility that your child will get better and avoid creating behavioral problems that will have to be corrected later. It is better for your child to have as normal an experience as possible — and this includes a normal parent-child relationship in which you teach your child proper behavior and life skills.
2. Don't give your child unrealistic expectations
While encouraging hope for the future is important, holding on to the idea that a magic cure will somehow materialize and heal them can do more damage than good. By painting an unrealistic picture of your child’s illness, you will only prevent your child from accepting and facing reality in a healthy way. Be honest with your child about all of the possible outcomes, both positive and negative, and then help him or her learn to cope appropriately.
3. Don't blame yourself or others for what's happening
Trying to determine who’s at fault will only lead to a cycle of frustration and blame that never ends and never produces answers. Instead, deal with the problem at hand the best you can and let go of the aspects of the situation over which you have no control.
4. Don’t micro-manage your child’s illness
You cannot be responsible for every decision or control everything that happens. Not only will this exhaust you out but it will interfere with your relationship with your spouse and other family members. Chronic illness is a family issue so allow other members of the family to contribute.
Avoiding family, friends and other systems of support can be easy to do when things become overwhelming and busy. It's crucial that you spend time with your partner and especially the other children if there are any. The family must remain healthy for all to deal with the illness successfully. Talk about what you are going through with family members and friends and allow them to comfort and support you. In the long run, this is a better and healthier way to deal with your situation.
6. Don't pamper or become over protective of your child
It's important to understand that your child is still developing and needs every opportunity to grow and learn. Pampering your child or protecting him or her from any and all challenges will only make your child feel isolated and insecure. It's important to maintain rules and boundaries while at the same time allowing your child freedom and room to grow.
A. Lynn Scoresby, founder and president of My Family Track , First Answers , and Achievement Synchrony , and has been a marriage and family psychologist for more than 35 years. He has published more than 20 books and training programs.