Your child may have many conflicting emotions about both the changes his/her body is undergoing and the consequential changes in daily life as a result of either the arthritis or the treatment. Encourage your child, and give ample opportunities, to express feelings, concerns, and fears. Ask what he/she is experiencing and really listen before bringing up your own feelings or explanations.
Verbal dialogue isn’t the only way to work through confused feelings: Music, drawing, and writing help kids express their emotions and can provide a healthy outlet for pent-up feelings. Sometimes children will record what they’re feeling deep inside through a drawing or painting when they aren’t ready to verbalize it. Journaling is also an excellent method of self-exploration because they’re writing their thoughts to themselves rather than someone else.
Children need to be reminded that they’re not responsible for their illness. Often, they fear they caused their condition because of something they said, thought, or did. Explain in simple terms what actually caused the arthritis, or if there is no known cause, explain that as well.
There won’t always be easy answers, and you can’t always promise that everything will be fine. But you can help your child feel better by listening, saying it’s okay to have the mixed feelings he/she is experiencing, reassuring him/her that you and your family love him/her and will be there during all times of the illness to keep him/her as comfortable as possible.
If your child asks, “Why me?” it’s okay to give an honest “I don’t know” answer. If your child says “it’s not fair,” acknowledge that your child is right. Kids need to know that it’s okay to feel angry about the illness.
Children need time to adjust to the diagnosis, the physical changes, and the depressed, angry, fearful feelings they may be experiencing. If you see signs that your child’s feelings are interfering with daily function, that your child is withdrawing socially, or that he/she is exhibiting radical changes in eating or sleeping habits that are unrelated to the illness, then seek the advice of professional counseling.