THE CHILD WITH A LONG-TERM ILLNESS
Articles for Parents
All Family Resources
Alphabetical List
  1. Children and Divorce
  2. Teenagers with Eating Disorders
  3. Teens: Alcohol and Other Drugs
  4. The Depressed Child
  5. Child Abuse - The Hidden Bruises
  6. Children Who Can't Pay Attention
  7. Children Who Won't Go to School
  8. Children and Grief
  9. Child Sexual Abuse
  10. Teen Suicide
  11. The Child with Autism
  12. Children Who Steal
  13. Children and TV Violence
  14. Children and Family Moves
  15. The Adopted Child
  16. Children with Learning Disabilities
  17. Children of Alcoholics
  18. Bedwetting
  19. The Child with a Long-Term Illness
  20. Making Day Care a Good Experience
  21. Psychiatric Medication for Children and Adolescents Part I: How Medications Are Used
  22. Normality
  23. Mental Retardation
  24. Know When to Seek Help for Your Child
  25. Who can be contacted to seek Help for Your Child
  26. Know Your Health Insurance Benefits
  27. Stepfamily Problems
  28. Responding to Child Sexual Abuse
  29. Psychiatric Medication for Children and Adolescents Part II: Types of Medications
  30. Children and AIDS
  31. When Children Have Children
  32. 11 Questions to Ask Before Psychiatric Hospital Treatment of Children and Adolescents
  33. Conduct Disorders
  34. Children's Sleep Problems
  35. Tic Disorders
  36. Helping Children After a Disaster
  37. Children and Firearms
  38. Bipolar Disorder (Manic-Depressive Illness) in Teens
  39. Children of Parents with Mental Illness
  40. The Influence of Music and Music Videos
  41. Substance Abuse Treatment for Children and Adolescents: Questions to Ask
  42. The Continuum of Care
  43. Discipline
  44. Children and Lying
  45. Lead Exposure
  46. Home Alone Children
  47. The Anxious Child
  48. Problems with Soiling and Bowel Control
  49. Schizophrenia in Children
  50. Panic Disorder in Children and Adolescents
  51. Psychiatric Medications for Children and Adolescents Part III: Questions to Ask
  52. Comprehensive Psychiatric Evaluation
  53. What is Psychotherapy For Children and Adolescents?
  54. Children and Watching TV
  55. Understanding Violent Behavior in Children & Adolescents
  56. Parenting: Preparing for Adolescence
  57. Normal Adolescent Development - Middle School and Early High School Years
  58. Normal Adolescent Development - Late High School Years and Beyond
  59. Children Online
  60. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in Children and Adolescents
  61. Children and Sports
  62. Talking to Your Kids About Sex
  63. Gay And Lesbian Adolescents
  64. Foster Care
  65. Children's Threats: When are they serious? 
  66. Helping Teenagers with Stress
  67. Children and The News
  68. Tobacco and Kids
  69. Asperger's Disorder
  70. Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  71. Multiracial Children
  72. Children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder
  73. Self-Injury in Adolescents
  74. Advocating for Your Child
  75. Pets and Children
  76. Helping Your Teen Become a Safe Driver
  77. Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
  78. When a Pet Dies
  79. Obesity in Children and Teens
  80. Bullying #80
THE CHILD WITH A LONG-TERM ILLNESS

The child with a serious medical illness is at risk for developing associated emotional problems. Unlike a child with a temporary sickness such as the flu, the child with a chronic illness must cope with knowing that the disease is here to stay and may even get worse. Child and adolescent psychiatrists point out that almost all of these children initially refuse to believe they are ill, and later feel guilt and anger.

The young child, unable to understand why the sickness has occurred, may assume it is a punishment for being "bad." He or she may become angry with parents and doctors for not being able to cure the illness. The youngster may react strongly against pampering, teasing, or other attention. Uncomfortable treatments, and restrictions in diet and activity may make the child bitter and withdrawn. To help your child deal with the disease you need to give them honest, accurate, and age appropriate information to help them understand.

A teenager with a long-term illness may feel pulled in opposite directions. On the one hand, he or she must take care of the physical problem, requiring dependence on parents and doctors. On the other hand, the adolescent wants to become independent and join his or her friends in various activities. When a teenager with a long-term illness tries to decrease or stop taking the prescribed medication without consulting with the physician, this often shows a normal adolescent desire to take charge of one's own body.

Chronic illness may cause school problems, including avoidance of school. This can increase the child's loneliness and feeling of being different from other youngsters. It is important for parents to help a child maintain as normal a routine as possible. They should respond not only to the child's illness, but to the childís strengths. Child and adolescent psychiatrists know that if isolated or overprotected, the child may not learn to socialize or may have difficulty separating from parents when it is time to be involved in school or other activities outside the home. It is often helpful for the child to be in contact with others who have successfully adjusted to living with a chronic illness.

In their prolonged periods of hospitalization and/or rest at home, children may develop excellence in a hobby or a special talent such as art, model airplanes, or a foreign language. They may also try to learn as much about their illness as possible. Such activities are emotionally healthy and should be encouraged.

Children with long-term illnesses are often treated by a team of medical special-ists. This team often includes a child and adolescent psychiatrist, who can help the child and family develop emotionally healthy ways of living with the disease and its effects. For additional information see Facts for Families: Children and Grief (#8), Children Who Wonít Go to School (#7), Children and AIDS (#30).

 

Article #19 Updated 5/99

All Family Resources wishes to thank the (AACAP) for giving us permission to use this article.

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) represents over 6,900 child and adolescent psychiatrists who are physicians with at least five years of additional training beyond medical school in general (adult) and child and adolescent psychiatry.

Facts for Families© is developed and distributed by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP). Facts sheets may be reproduced for personal or educational use without written permission, but cannot be included in material presented for sale. To order full sets of FFF, contact Public Information, 1.800.333.7636.  Free distribution of individual Facts sheets is a public service of the AACAP Special Friends of Children Fund. Please make a tax deductible contribution to the AACAP Special Friends of Children Fund and support this important public outreach. (AACAP, Special Friends of Children Fund, P.O. Box 96106, Washington, D.C. 20090).
   
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