Family & Parenting

Tips for Caring for Seriously Ill Children

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Last Updated: Sep 10, 2020

It’s never easy when a family member is forced to live with an advanced or terminal illness. But it becomes even harder when the family member in question is a young child. The younger someone is, the less equipped they are to deal with such a difficult situation, and the less equipped their loved ones are, as well.

Fortunately, there are ways to equip yourself with the tools and knowledge you need to help take care of your child. Here are some tips that we hope will make this dark time a little bit brighter.

It’s Okay to Ask for Help

First things first: something important to remember going forward is that, no matter how you might feel at any given time, you do not have to go through this alone. It’s okay to ask for help. In fact, asking for help doesn’t just make things easier for you. It also makes things easier for the child in your care.

Getting help could be something as simple as having a friend go grocery shopping on your behalf, or something more involved, like making use of local children’s hospice or palliative care services

Be Honest with Your Child

When talking to children, adults often feel like they have to shield them from the truth. Try not to give into that temptation and avoid sugar-coating the serious stakes of the situation. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t exercise tact or encourage an optimistic outlook, but keeping a loved one in the dark about the severity of their condition usually does more harm than good.

Children are brighter and more observant than many of us give them credit for. They can sense when something is wrong. Lying to them denies them the opportunity to share their concerns, ask questions, exercise their autonomy, and make the most of the time they have.

Follow an Organized Plan

Whatever illness your child is struggling with, chances are caring for them will require making significant changes to your lifestyle and possibly even your home. Different conditions require different things. Some necessitate dietary restrictions, exercise and physical therapy routines, time-sensitive medications, frequent doctor’s visits, or specialized equipment. It can be a lot to take in.

The best way to transition from your old lifestyle to a new one is to break it down into an organized game plan that gradually allows you to be accustomed to the new status quo. Take things one step at a time and you’ll do fine.

Don’t Neglect Your Family

Sometimes, the members of a family with a sick loved one focus all their energies on caring for that loved one, but neglect each other in the process. Selflessness is good, as is prioritizing the care of those who need it the most. But as a family, it’s important to be in this together at all times.

Additionally, don’t forget that your family includes you. Pushing yourself to the breaking point ultimately does no one any good. If you need to, meet with a counselor or a local support group. Make sure to get enough sleep, eat right, and maintain your own health. Remember that first tip: it’s okay to ask for help.

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