Helping Your Child Manage Chronic Pain and Illness
I sneak up on you, snatching your drive, peace of mind and energy. I steal your time, your dreams and your days. I interrupt your sleep, zinging you out of peaceful dreams. I attach myself to you like a coat of super glue—hardening … making it impossible to shake me. I make movement slow, difficult and always intentional. I dictate your day. I determine your abilities. I delay your dreams and drain your drive. I am chronic illness and pain.
Those who deal with chronic illness and pain know that it causes life to be more difficult, more expensive and more stressful. When you wake up hurting, or sick, you have to play a mental game of how bad am I feeling today—verses do I have sick days left at school or work. When was the last time I missed, and will I become truant or lose my position or credibility?
On top of all that. You are starting your day at a disadvantage from everyone else. Instead of being 100 percent you are operating at half or one fourth of what everyone else has physically, emotionally and mentally. It’s like your gas tank is operating on fumes making your car sputter and not perform at optimum capacity.
So how do you manage the stress of trying to balance a normal life and the high demands of it against the problems of living with daily pain and illness?
How do you juggle doctor’s appointments and required monthly medication refills with being in the office or classroom regularly? How much do you disclose to those around you? How much do you keep to yourself? As adults we might have a better sense of who we can trust and/or when it’s appropriate to share personal information.
For children, it can be harder, because classmates can make it more difficult if they think there is something different about one of their own. Sometimes, kids can be very supportive and understanding of a sick classmate. Other times they may not understand, choosing to point out the child’s weaknesses or differences.
So what can we do to help our children when they have chronic illness and pain?
First, acknowledge your child’s feelings. They need to know that you hear them and see that they are having a hard time physically. Chronic physical pain and illness can lead to mental discouragement and depression. Don’t be afraid to address depression issues caused by pain. Pain depletes a person’s serotonin and so does being sick for long periods of time. So, if need be go see a psychiatrist, who can diagnose and treat the depression.
Second, talk about it. Talk about in your family and with a counselor if necessary. And do let your child’s school and teacher know what is going on with your child.
Third, pray for your child and with your child. Give frequent hugs, pats on the backs, words of encouragement and affirmation.
Fourth, talk to other parents in similar situations or join a support group. There is comfort in knowing you are not alone. Getting into a support group offers encouragement, a place to be heard and new solutions you may not have thought of yet.
Fifth, know when to push and when to let up. There are days when the pain is too much, and your child may need to rest. Let them. Sit with them. There may be other days when you know they don’t feel great, but they can push through. Help them do that. Go meet them for lunch or take them lunch. Send them a bible verse or encouraging text. Just being a support can offer the help they need to make it through the day.
Sixth, know what helps your child feel safe and comforted. It might be a favorite blanket or snuggling with a pet. Provide time for those things.
Last, of all, be their advocate. You know when you feel bad that you don’t feel like taking care of things or even talking. So there may be times, you child needs you to be their advocate—especially depending on their age.
Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”