Tips for coping with a child's chronic disease
A chronic childhood disease or illness — a health problem that lasts for three months or more, disrupts your child's normal activities, and requires frequent hospitalizations or extensive medical care — can create significant challenges for your child and family.
Because a chronic disease affects your child and family over a longer time, your child may be at particular risk of stress and emotional and behavioral problems such as anxiety, depression, aggression, delinquency and noncompliant behavior.
Taking steps to cope with the ups and downs of your child's chronic illness can help manage the stress that comes with the experience.
Communicate openly with your child about his or her illness
Your child may have little to no understanding of illness, which can lead to confusion, fear and even self-blame if your child somehow believes that the illness is his or her fault. Prevent or ease any bad feelings by communicating openly in an age-appropriate way about what's going on.
June 25, 2014
- Allow your child to make as many decisions as possible regarding diagnosis and treatment, such as picking what day to go to the doctor. A feeling of control can help your child retain a sense of identity.
- Avoid being overprotective. Your instinct may be to rein in your child to protect him or her. But try not to limit your child's activities unless it's medically necessary. Maintain your family's regular routine as much as possible.
- Don't provide too much medical information when speaking to your child about what's going on, but provide age-appropriate facts.
- Talk with your child about what he or she is feeling. This can help you understand what aspects of your child's life are stressful or upsetting, so you can focus on those areas.
- Talk with your child about ways to explain what's happening to other children who may be curious. Ill kids can sometimes feel isolated when they're in school or around friends.
See more In-depth
- Compas BE, et al. Coping with chronic illness in childhood and adolescence. Annual Reviews of Clinical Psychology. 2012;8:455.
- When your child is diagnosed with chronic illness: How to cope. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/chronic-illness-child.aspx. Accessed May 21, 2014.
- Coping with a diagnosis of chronic illness. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/chronic-illness.aspx. Accessed May 21, 2014.
- Helping children cope with chronic illness. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology. http://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Medical_Students_and_Residents/Mentorship_Matters/DevelopMentor/Helping_Children_Cope_with_Chronic_Illness.aspx. Accessed May 21, 2014.