Supporting Children With Illness Or Disability
Love, care and building resilience. Storyberries offers free children's books and parenting tips to help support kids with illness or disability.
When a child is very ill, it can be very hard for parents, siblings, grandparents and other loved ones, and also of course for the child themselves. It is a time of worry, doubt and tension that frequently requires changes to the family routine. The child who is sick is likely to feel scared and helpless, and needs the love of parents and family more than ever, so it is important that everyone feels as comfortable and safe as possible, and that kids receive information appropriate to their age and maturity. This article offers general suggestions for parents, and is not intended to replace the specific advice given to parents by health professionals.
Even temporary, mild diseases can produce regression in the central nervous system of children, making them irritable, hypersensitive, and more likely to cry more, or behave in infantile ways. A more prolonged and severe illness, or a disability will involve more change and require more adaptation. Getting sound advice from health experts and practicing self care is really important so as to be best placed to support everyone involved.
Something that helps children cope with moments of distress is resilience; is the ability to overcome the experience of pain, to feel the impact of pain less, and to move forward despite setbacks. Resilience leads to better psychological and emotional health; for example, greater tenacity and improved self esteem.
Children with severe illness frequently show great psychological strength, especially when they are surrounded by people who express sincere affection, love, and understanding. Here we some suggestions for helping ill children to have a positive outlook, and for building their resilience.
As well as providing parenting tips, Storyberries offers free online children’s books to help support kids who are ill.
Try to stay calmHaving lots of patience and understanding, and trying to keep a calm attitude despite the severity of the illness, really helps – children quickly pick up the vibes of their parents.
Keep kids companyKeeping kids company, and creating an atmosphere of tenderness and care, really helps recovery. Family is a key factor in a child’s recovery, so your presence will help them to not feel isolated. If physical presence is not possible, we encourage you to communicate by phone, email, zoom, etc.
Have Fun!Play is important for children’s development, even in this situation. Children can express their fears through drawings, and telling stories of children who are in the same situation often helps them feel calmer. Playing games and offering activities related to their hobbies is also a useful way of providing positive distraction.
Explain things honestlyTry to talk clearly and simply about the illness or disability to dispel doubts or misconceptions. In many cases, children over the age of four can be told about their situation using simple explanations, examples and analogies.
If children do not have sufficient information, they often imagine their situation to be worse than it is and become more fearful as a result. Knowing what is going to happen helps the child feel more secure, and more able to adapt to the situation.
Allowing space to share feelingsGive children space to express fears and anxieties, about the pain and discomfort, and any wider worries they may have. Not expressing emotions produces more anxiety and inhibits recovery. Optimism on the other hand promotes healing.
Look after yourself too
Take care of yourself, being very kind and gentle with how you feel. Caring for a child with illness or disability can be emotionally and physically tiring for parents, Do reach out for help and support where you can. That way you can spend time doing things to nurture your own well-being, and be in the healthiest state possible to support your child.
Visiting HospitalA very moving and poetic tale, written by an intensive care nurse, about a child who is sick in hospital. The lovely illustrations and moving words really convey a deep love felt for the sick child.
People Who HelpChildren with severe illness or disability come into contact with many different health and care professionals. In this delightful poem Phoebe Coghlan celebrates the many people who care for us and provide public service. A beautiful reminder of the care that surrounds us.
The Whizzing RoundaboutIn this beautifully illustrated and encouraging story, Zoe and her friends love to go to the local park. Zoe uses a wheelchair. Like all kids, Zoe can do many things, but not everything. She wishes there were more things for her to do in the local playground. Zoe and her family are optimistic and they appeal to the community for help to buy a wheelchair roundabout for all the kids to enjoy. Success!
The Inside BookA picture book helping kids to understand COVID 19. It responds in positive ways to some of the common questions and concerns raised by kids, and encourages kindness and compassion for all. The book also explains how we wash hands thoroughly, and how to protect each other by wearing masks.
Article by Luzmery M. Romero Gamboa and Fleur Rodgers
Luzmery works in the area of clinical psychology as a psychotherapist for children, adolescents and families. Since 2016, she has run a Psychological Center in Venezuela called Psicoluz. She offers workshop facilitations to parents, is involved in recreational activities for children, and has been working as a freelancer since 2017 performing online psychotherapy.
Fleur is a meditation teacher in France and uses a compassion and loving-kindness based approach to meditation and slow-minded living. Fleur posts regularly to Instagram @rodgers.fleur . She has two children, is a qualified teacher in adult education and is the founder of Timeouttobreathe.com