Life with kids diagnosed with a chronic condition can be very difficult for the child as well as the entire family. These challenges are an added burden on the already confusing time that is childhood, eventually leading into puberty. Children tend to lack the ability to fully communicate the stress they may feel and often express their feelings in varied ways that we as parents, might not recognize as signs of their stress.
I can tell you that I have missed these signs and later, come to realize I have judged a situation incorrectly. The child/teen in not always able to verbalize their frustration, insecurities, doubts and fears. Some children might express themselves in hidden code, leaving you trying to figure it out. Here are some examples that if seen, may prompt you to check in with your child or might indicate that he/she is going through a rough time.
- Not wanting to do various activities because they are tired
- Experiencing belly pain for no reason (big sign of stress)
- Avoiding talking to you
- Changing their mind often
- Grades varying drastically
- Regularly not finishing their school work – maybe in one subject in particular or multiple subjects
- Moodiness (this one comes with the territory but look for big swings or constant moodiness)
- Avoiding something they used to love to do
- Spending excessive time by themselves
- Not asking to spend time with their peers
One of these in and of itself should not cause alarm. Rather, are you beginning to see a pattern? Question yourself. How often is this happening? All the signs mentioned above are just possible signs that might tell you it is time to check in. Sit down with them in private and ask questions. Tell them what you have noticed. They might open up at that time and they might not. They might not even realize what they are doing themselves. If it continues, keep gently talking to them about what you’ve noticed until they are ready to open up.
When living with a chronic illness, a child will be challenged with:
- Feeling different due to their treatment
- Wanting to be just like their peers and neglect their treatment
- Feelings of shame
- Wanting to hide in order to avoid drawing attention to themselves
Keeping the doors of communication open is very important. I know that sometimes they shut you out of their lives but keep asking and keep reassuring them that you are there for them. Listen to what they are trying to say as their comments might be telling.
It happened to me. My daughter didn’t come to me with her struggle until months after it began. During this period, she only made subtle comments that I sometimes didn’t think anything of. Months later, when she was feeling completely overwhelmed, she broke down. We talked openly and I was able to help her but it took time and lots of tears to get there.
I don’t blame myself, but now I know. Now, I look for the signs. The subtle comments that seem odd or irrelevant, might be a critical window into how they are feeling. Now I ask more questions and our relationship has grown stronger than it ever has been because she knows I will always have her back. I listened. I was there for her. I didn’t judge her.
Hopefully you can learn from my struggles and keep the lines of communication open during these difficult times.