Children handle illness and treatment differently; but open communication is key to successful adaptation for each of them. Medicine, doctor’s offices, and hospitals may seem frightening to children, so it’s important for them to understand that all three are crucial to helping him/her get better. Your child needs to know he/she is sick and will be receiving lots of care from now on.
Discussing hard subjects is often dreaded by parents, but is usually handled more smoothly than expected. Sometimes parents don’t know what to say or where to begin. You may also find your child hesitant to open up and share his/her true feelings about having arthritis. A few suggestions to keep in mind when you’re talking with your child may help:
- Use comforting language and a confident, warm tone of voice. Be positive and loving.
- Trust your instincts for when and how much to say.
- If your timing seems to be off, be patient. Your child will let you know when he/she needs and wants to talk.
- Young children are concrete in their thinking, so focus on more concrete information. Make sure your child understands what’s happening in the next few hours, that day, or the next couple of days.
- Accurately explain and prepare your child for treatments. Reassure your child that it’s temporary and that you’ll be there to offer support.
- Give clear, honest answers to all questions in a way that your child can understand. Make sure your child understands everything that is discussed during doctor visits and treatments.
- Older kids may find it easier to talk to peers who have similar medical conditions. Ask your child’s medical providers for appropriate chat rooms or ways to make contact with children in similar circumstances.
- Reassure your child that you’ll do whatever you can to prevent pain and to help him/her cope with the arthritis and treatment.
- Meet with a child life specialist at the hospital or clinic to help your child explore feelings and fears through conversation or play therapy.
- Frequently reassure your child that you will always love him/her no matter what he says or thinks.
- Your child’s doctor or other medical professional may be able to offer advice on how to discuss the illness with your child, so don’t be afraid to ask. They’re busy, but that’s their job.