How to cope if your child has a scary illness

Hearing your child has a scary disease can be overwhelming for even the strongest parent. Here’s how you can cope better with the situation.

 Your child has been given a frightening diagnosis. What should you do?

Your child has been diagnosed with a scary illness, disease, or medical condition. Now what? Our first instinct as parents is to protect our children. Finding out you aren’t always capable of doing so isn’t just a shock; it can also feel like a failure, adding to the grief you’re already feeling. At the same time, you’re well aware that, now more than ever, your entire family is counting on you to be strong.

Here’s how you can get through this seemingly insurmountable situation:

Accept your sorrow

Lisa Burger, a private practice social worker and member of the South African Association of Social Workers in Private Practice, says you’re grieving the loss of your hopes for your child’s health. Allow yourself to go through the stages of grief. “Be aware that you will experience the same stages of grief as anyone who has lost a loved one: denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. If the diagnosis comes as a shock, you’ll be dealing with the added stress of trauma on top of a difficult mix of emotions,” says Lisa.

Arm yourself with information

Learn everything you can about the disease you’re dealing with. This will assist you in comprehending the journey ahead of you – but keep in mind that Dr Google is not the best source of information. Instead, find a specialist you like and trust, and ask the following key questions: What can you anticipate from the treatment plan? Will your child’s development be affected by the disease or its treatment? What can you expect after you’ve recovered?

Make contact with friends and family

While your instinct may be to lock yourself away until there are no more tears to cry, you may find that the opposite is far more beneficial. Lisa suggests enlisting the help of your friends and family. In addition to friends and family, you may find that joining a support group can help you connect with other parents who are on a similar path.

Prioritise self-care

Despite the fact that you’ve probably gone into survival mode, Lisa warns that you’ll only be able to get through this if you take some time for self-care. So, book a manicure, even if it feels strange and self-indulgent. Go for a run, or watch a movie. Above all, make sure you’re getting enough food and sleep.