My mum has always said that having a sick child is one of the hardest things she has ever had to deal with; not because she finds me difficult to deal with, but because she cannot take the illness away from me.
My parents are my super heroes, and it is because of them that I am able to sit here and write this blog post for you. For the last three years they have fought and fought and fought, even when I couldn’t. They have supported me, made my life easier and stepped up when things became too difficult for me.
My mum sat with me all through my GCSE year, (the first year I was ill), and learnt the material late into the night so that she could help me understand it. She has spent hours in the car, driving me to school, so that I didn’t have to deal with a 45 minute commute at 6 in the morning. My dad has taken time off work, and has given up his time off to drive me to appointments, scans, A&E and hospital visits. He has picked up extra shifts, or done freelance work, so that I get the best care possible. Even when they are exhausted, their first priority is their children.
I have three illnesses, which is three more than an 18 year old should have. I’m not mentally ill, apart from a small amount of anxiety. I don’t feel hopeless or misunderstood. And that’s because of my parents; it’s because I know that I don’t have to keep up a fighter façade for my mum, or because I know that if I need a hug or someone to have a go at doctors, I can always ask my dad.
I am incredibly blessed by God to have been given the parents I have. I probably wouldn’t be able to fight the way I do if it weren’t for them.
Today I want to share with you three things that they have done that has been vital in getting diagnoses and dealing with my health, things that you should be doing to support your child who’s sick.
- Fight for them
If the healthcare system where you live is anything like the healthcare system where I am, then your child will have a war on their hands to be taken seriously. They will need you to be at every appointment, fighting for them. They will need you to fight for them when they don’t have the energy to fight for themselves.
I wouldn’t be at the place I am at right now if my parents hadn’t fought for me. My mum has been at almost every appointment, pushing the doctors to take me seriously and give me help. My dad has been at almost every appointment, or waiting in the car, ready to go in and demand that they respect me and take me seriously.
Your child needs that. They need to know that, even if the world is against them (and that is often how it feels), they have you, ready for battle by their side.
- Take them seriously
There is nothing worse for a sick child than not being taken seriously by the people they love. I remember the first time someone close to me questioned the legitimacy of my illness, I cried for hours.
Your child needs you to take them seriously, whether you think you should or not. My parents have always taken me seriously. Every symptom has been noted, every medication I take, every appointment. They have stood up to people and supported me, even when the entire healthcare system was telling them not to.
Them taking me seriously is the reason I am able to live life semi – normally. I know that if I need to take a break, or if my symptoms start to flare up, they will take me seriously and won’t think that I’m being lazy.
- Be there for them
This one might seem obvious, but it is so important, especially if your child is ill.
Like I said above, my dad always makes time to take me to appointments, even if it means getting up at 5am on his day off. He isn’t a talkative man, especially when it comes to emotions, but he shows me how much he loves me every time he gets in the car, even if he’s already had to drive me to appointments three times that week. He shows me that he loves me every time he picks me up from the hospital, or from town when I am suddenly our of energy.
My mum is always available for a chat. There is always a cup of tea or a corner of the sofa or a part of her bed to sit on, a space to cry and vent and swear and just get all those feelings out. She takes me out for lunch once a week to chat and catch up, even if we had already spent the morning doing just that. She is always more excited than me when something good happens, and is one of my biggest cheerleaders.
Your child needs you to be their cheerleader, therapist and driver, especially if they are ill. Having good relationship with them is one of the most helpful things you can do for your sick child. They need to know that they can come to you and cry or vent without judgement. They need to know that you will always be there for them, no matter what, and that nothing they ever do will change that.
There are many ways to support your sick child, but these are the ‘broad spectrum’ ones that I have found the most helpful in my battle for good health. There are obviously specifics, which I may write about another time, but if you can incorporate these into the way you support your ill child, then I can guarantee that it will help them, whether they admit it or not.