Helping Your Child Cope With a Medical Condition

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

What You Can Do

  • Clarify your child’s restrictions, triggers and dangers with the medical team.
    • Explain them again to your child in language they can understand.
  • Empathize with your child’s struggles.
    • “It IS tough taking these medications every day!” Then gently remind them that taking medications will keep them 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 and 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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