Caring for a child with a chronic illness can be a challenge of the tallest order. It requires us to stretch ourselves physically, financially, emotionally, and mentally and it is in that stretching that we often discover strengths that we did not know we possessed. The great thing about this discovery is that these strengths become part of our permanent collection of tools or resources that we can access in other situations. We are now stronger by virtue of that stretching.
Sometimes this new learning takes the form of problem-solving some practical challenge that had blocked you from being able to take part in an activity that you really wanted your child to participate in. This might require some brainstorming with others or tapping into the knowledge of others who have been facing these challenges far longer than you have. This is where support groups, and Internet chat rooms and forums can be absolutely invaluable. Why reinvent the wheel!
I have recently become acquainted with members of a remarkable organization, called the Mid-Shore Challengers, which provides athletic opportunities for kids who could not take part in Special Olympics because their physical challenges are too severe. In order to make this happen they had to “think outside the box” and not be limited by stereotyped conceptions of how a game has to be played. As a result, their children get to have an experience that would be totally inaccessible to them.
However, there are times when there are no solutions and no amount of brainstorming will succeed in changing your child’s circumstances. In these cases, the stretching is not physical or financial but cognitive and emotional. This stretching is extremely important for your child because it can shape how your child copes in the present and into the future. As you can imagine, it begins with you. It will be your perspectives, encouragements, understanding, and support that allow your child to find ways to accept who they are and to deal with the frustrations of their circumstances. Next week, I will talk about the process of examining your own reactions, beliefs, and perspectives in order to help you help your child.