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Helping Your Child Cope With a Medical Condition

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This information was reviewed and approved by Jennifer Moyer Darr, LCSW (3/1/2019).

Your child’s chronic illness can be difficult, frustrating and frightening. Here are a few suggestions that can help.

What You Can Do

  • girl with braidsClarify your child’s restrictions, triggers and dangers with the medical team.

    • Explain them again to your child in language the child can understand.

  • Empathize with your child’s struggles.

    • “It IS tough taking these medications every day!” Then gently remind your child that taking medications will keep him or her healthier.

    • “I don’t BLAME you for being mad or angry that you can’t eat the pizza! I would be, too! As hard as this, at least you have your own special treat to take to the pizza party.”

  • Develop illness action plans for trusted adults to follow, such as grandparents, babysitters and school staff.

  • Reward your child for daily cooperation with health and medical management tasks or for taking age-appropriate responsibilities.

  • Make sure to TAKE A PARENTS’ BREAK. In order to give your child help, you must make sure to give yourself time as well.

  • Give your child outlets to correctly express feelings, and encourage that expression. For example:

    • Carve out a special time each day to talk with your child.

    • Provide your child with a journal to record feelings.

    • Develop a “feelings corner” at home for hitting a punching bag, ripping newspapers or yelling into a pillow.


When You Should Seek Professional Help

There may be many appropriate times to seek help, including after your child receives a new medical diagnosis; if you as parents feel overwhelmed, tired or in conflict; or if you observe the following behaviors in your child:

  • A change in mood and behavior

  • School problems

  • Sleep disturbances

  • Intensified sibling conflict

  • A lack of cooperation with medical management

  • Increasing social withdrawal


What You Can Expect from a Visit with Pediatric Behavioral Health

  • An in-depth exploration of your child’s illness and its medical and emotional impact on all family members

  • Solutions for managing and coping with the illness, such as ways to improve medication adherence

  • To learn specific techniques, such as biofeedback, relaxation techniques and cognitive behavioral techniques

  • To learn healthy ways for your child to appropriately express strong emotions about his or her illness/condition

  • Follow-up behavioral health sessions, if needed, for individuals and family as well as play therapy.

  • School consultations 


Call 303.398.1260 to make an appointment with one of our experienced psychologists, social workers or art therapists in our Division of Pediatric Behavioral Health.

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