When a child has a chronic condition, the whole family has a chronic condition. Other family members are often faced with making their own lifestyle adjustments – diet restrictions, limits on family vacations and other cost-cutting, and coping with looks and insensitive comments from others. It is important for family members to all acknowledge the ‘elephant in the room,’ which is their own sense of helplessness that can result when a family member is ill.
Families often try to cope with chronic illness by pretending that everything is okay, and trying to ‘think positive’ when inside everyone is feeling not so positive emotions, like fear, anger, and sadness. But the emotions are there, whether or not they are acknowledged. And unacknowledged emotions ‘leak out’ in ways that can have a negative effect on everyone.
If you have a child who has been diagnosed with a chronic condition, make sure that you and other family members – have a safe place to express your own feelings. You don’t have to face this alone. And remember that feelings are only feelings – they aren’t real. What is real is a sense of compassion for yourself and for others – one of the greatest lessons that illness can teach all of us.
Previously published here and reprinted with the author’s permission.
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