Expert Q&A: What Can I Do to Help My Child’s Emotional Health?

Dealing with juvenile arthritis can be a tough, but there are some things parents can do to help their child cope.

Expert Q&A: What Can I Do to Help My Child’s Emotional Health?
How can I ensure that my child grows up emotionally sound and healthy in face of chronic illness? 

No parent wants to see their child experience the emotional and physical effects of living with a chronic illness. Despite this, you know your child looks to you to help them feel better when they are hurting. This role can feel overwhelming, especially when it feels like there is no way to “take the pain away.” I like to remind parents that it is unrealistic to think your child will not experience some emotional or physical distress due to their chronic illness. The good news is that you are in the perfect spot to provide them the tools they need to develop into healthy and well-adjusted adults. 

Skills like autonomy and empowerment can be incorporated into your child’s care much sooner than many parents think. Let your child create their identity and show them how to advocate for themselves. 

Some ways to promote this are: 
  1. Encourage an active role in medical visits.
  2. Use the same language in your home that is used during doctor’s appointments. (This will help them understand their disease and the terminology that goes along with it).
  3. Ask open-ended questions (questions that start with “How,” “What if,” or “Why”) when asking how they are feeling and what you might be able to do to help. 
  4. Provide guidance on adjustments your child may need to help with daily living.
  5. Most of all, allow your child the space to fail and provide guidance and support while they are working through that experience.
Remember, YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Ask if your child’s medical clinic has a social worker, psychologist, child life specialist or other support staff. Take advantage of opportunities to meet other families at your local JA Day, JA Camps across the country or one of the JA Conferences. Connecting with others not only helps your child normalize their experience but also helps you, as a parent, give and get feedback and validation on your concerns, feelings and strengths.

Liz Morasso, LCSW
Clinical Social Worker
UCLA Health
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