Are you worried because you:
- Feel overwhelmed, stressed, worried, or jumpy?
- Are reliving your child’s accident or illness diagnosis?
- Are staying away from reminders of your child’s injury or illness?
- Are staying away from normal activities, family, or friends?
When your child is ill or injured it is normal to feel stressed and worried. An injury, illness or hospital stay can be traumatic for you as parents/caregivers too. Having a sick, injured or hospitalized child often results in feelings of frustration, sadness, worry or helplessness. It’s a stressful time when relationships with medical staff take priority, and other important relationships and activities get interrupted or put on hold. Having a sick or injured child often challenges your innermost beliefs about the safety of your children.
You’re probably worrying about will happen to your child, even if you’re not showing it to others. You might feel unprepared to talk to your sick or injured child (or your other children) about feelings, fears, and questions.
What can you do to help yourself?
- Understand normal reactions and feelings.
In the first few weeks after a diagnosis or injury, it’s normal to feel upset, worried, and more stressed. Dealing with a new diagnosis, injury, relapse, or other medical event is difficult and an unexpected disruption to day-to-day family life. These feelings and reactions usually get better with a little time and with support from family and friends. Listen to one mother speak about her fear... and guilt:
Know when you should ask for help While it’s normal to feel upset, worried, and overwhelmed in the first few weeks following your child’s illness or injury, continuing to feel this way may mean you need to seek out help.
Signs to look out for include:
1) If your feelings make it hard to get back to (or enjoy) your usual activities;
2) If you find it hard to talk with your child about happened;
3) If you seem to be getting worse rather than better; or
4) if your feelings and reactions that bother you last more than a month.
- Be aware of your own feelings and reactions.
Some parents may find it upsetting to talk with their child about what happened, or they feel anxious or overprotective when their child starts to return to normal activities. If this is true for you, be sure to get support for yourself so that you can best help your child.
- Take care of yourself.
If you are worried, upset, not sleeping or eating, it will be harder to help your child. Let other people help you and be sure to tell them what kind of help you need. Make a list of thing you might need- bringing a meal or taking care of your other children - you can refer to this when people call to ask how they can help you. Talk with people you trust (family, friends, clergy, and your doctor) about how you are feeling.
- Watch out for problematic ways of dealing with stress.
Be especially careful no to increase smoking, alcohol, or other unhealthy ways of coping when you feel worried, upset, or stressed.
- Talk to your own doctor, clergyman, your child’s medical team to find additional help.
If you find yourself very upset or worried and this does not seem to be getting better after a few weeks, be sure to talk with your own doctor about ways to help. Consider talking with a counselor or therapist. Listen to one mom's advice to other parents coping with their child's cancer:
- A Caregiver’s Guide: Taking Care of Yourself While Your Child is in the Hospital
- Guía Para Cuidadores: Cómo cuidarse mientras su hijo está en el hospital
- Case for Smiles provides information to help parents understand and cope with their own traumatic stress reactions resulting from their child's illness or injury.