Health: Coping With Childhood Illness
The worst thing any parent can hear is that their child is ill, especially when the illness is likely to be protracted or the prognosis is sketchy at best. At times like this, it’s only natural for any parent to devote all their time and energy toward the ill child, but this may not prove to be in the best interest of either the child or the parent. As scary as it can be to confront the specter of a chronic illness in your child, it’s imperative that you take care of yourself as well. Otherwise, you won’t be able to effectively help your child, your family, or yourself. Here are some tips you can use to maintain a healthy lifestyle and keep your body and mind sound for those who need you most.
4 Ways To Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle - When a child’s in the hospital, the temptation to just grab fast food and get home as quickly as possible can quickly go from a nice treat to a lifestyle. Similarly, lying awake waiting for a call, a cry, or any sign of discomfort from your child may make you feel better in the short term, but will wear you out over time. The human body requires rest and decent nourishment, which means preparing a wholesome, healthy meal. You’ll feel better and be far better able to cope with the stress of your own worry and the questions your child is likely to have about their condition.
- Stress management - You may want to scream, cry, hit something, or just burn off that nervous, restless energy. These are all perfectly healthy and natural, as long as you don’t take your feelings out on your family. Aggressive housecleaning, doing some yoga or medium-impact aerobic exercise, or even just going into your bedroom and beating on a pillow until the anger is gone and the tears can flow are valid and healthy expressions of your fear and anguish. By directing your stress and fear into these activities, you’ll feel more balanced and healthy, which will better prepare you to cope with anything each day might bring.
- Treat yourself - Getting dressed up in nice clothes or putting on makeup may seem like a pointless task, especially when you have so much else on your mind. However, taking the time to pamper yourself a little doesn’t mean you’re taking valuable time from your child. Staying grounded means keeping things to as normal a routine as you can manage, and doing a little something for yourself, even if it’s just trying out a new lipstick shade or that outfit you’ve never found an excuse to wear before, can help you look and feel better, giving you the ability to do even better for yourself and your family.
- Outside help and support - No one can better appreciate the fears and anxieties of a parent than another parent. You may need help getting the other kids off to or home from school. Your other kids may feel left out because of the energy you’re pouring into your ill child. You may just feel overwhelmed by “one more thing.” There is nothing wrong with this, and no one will hold it against you. You don’t have to be a superhero, but you can engage the rest of the family or your circle of friends and acquaintances to help out during this trying time. It will take some of the pressure off, which will give you more time to take care of the things and people that really matter to you. Be sure to set aside some time for your spouse and your other children, because while there will be tension and occasion flares of conflict, reminding your family that they are just as important to you can help defuse a lot of these problems.
If all else fails, there are support groups for parents of chronically ill children, to give you a chance to talk out your feelings in a sympathetic environment. Everyone there knows and understands what you’re feeling and going through, because they’re there or have been there too. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and don’t be ashamed of your feelings or your fears. The biggest mistake you can make is trying to take it all on by yourself. Having a sick child is scary enough without feeling like you’re all alone against the world.
Do you or a family member struggle with an illness? What do you do to cope with it?