Hands Holding Each Other
Hands Holding Hands

Child and Teen Chronic Illness

Is Your Child Or Teen Struggling With Chronic Illness?

Does your child or teen suffer from a long-term or chronic illness? Or, maybe your child has just been diagnosed with an illness and is having a difficult time adjusting and coping with their “new normal.” Possibly, you have landed on this website because you are having a difficult time coping with your child’s illness. Is he or she often unable to attend school or social activities due to distressing symptoms, such as pain, nausea and/or chronic fatigue? Is your child highly stressed, anxious, depressed or even hopeless, worried that his or her illness will never go away? Perhaps your child feels that no one understands and is afraid to talk about his or her condition or to ask your medical provider questions. Do you worry that your child or teen’s changing appearance as a result of illness and/or medication is taking a toll on his or her body image? Does your child make critical remarks about his or her body related to illness or the side effects of medications? Possibly, your child does not want to take helpful medications for his or her illness, or participate in self-care activities to manage chronic illness. It may be that you feel hopeless and helpless to help your child alleviate painful symptoms. Do you worry that your child might be lacking the skills needed to cope with the stress and pain? Do you desperately want to help your child or teen harness their inner resilience?

Children with chronic illnesses are some of the strongest human beings I’ve met. Nevertheless, watching your child struggle with physical and emotional pain can be a frustrating and deeply saddening experience. It might be that the more medical professionals you see, the more your child or teen struggles with fear, resentment, guilt or frustration. He or she may be feeling angry, confused, lonely and/or vulnerable. And, seeing how his or her illness is impacting the entire family, your child or teen may even struggle with guilt or shame. He or she may also be stressed as a result of missing school and/or being away from your family for long periods of time. You may notice extreme fluctuations in mood, appetite or demeanor, or sense that your child is no longer enjoying once-loved activities. Or, possibly your child is not able to participate in once-loved activities due to treatments or chronic illness limitations. Maybe your child is going through chemo treatments and cannot be around peers due to his or her immune system being too weak, or possibly your child with juvenile arthritis might have periods of flare-ups, which keep him or her from participating in high-impact sports. Perhaps you struggle to set boundaries or discipline your ill child when he or she misbehaves. It may be that your child has difficulty adhering to doctor’s instructions regarding self-medicating, restricting diet or abstaining from certain activities. You may worry about his or her future and how illness will impact life goals or desires. Regardless of how symptoms are manifesting, do you feel overwhelmed, concerned and unsure of what you can do to help?

Childhood Chronic Illness Can Turn A Family Upside Down

Having a child diagnosed with a chronic illness is often a big shock for the entire family. It’s very common for parents and children to feel confused, angry and overwhelmed. For many children suffering with chronic illness, the hardest part is that there is often no end in sight. Many illnesses never go away, some will progress further and others are terminal.  Chronic illness can disrupt children’s lives in a multitude of ways, impacting not just their body, but also their emotional wellbeing. Children with a long-term condition are almost twice as likely to experience anxiety, depression and social difficulties. And, seeing a child suffering with a long-term illness can leave parents, caregivers and other family members feeling helpless and overwhelmed. As chronic illnesses in children can impact their ability to learn at school and/or socialize, it’s critical for children to gain the tools needed to accept and cope with their illness as soon as possible.

Having a child with a chronic condition can also affect interpersonal and family dynamics, which can cause conflict, loneliness and/or frustration. Often, parents feel helpless to discipline an ill child and struggle to maintain a routine and/or keep up with other family members’ needs and desires. The good news is that there is help and hope available. A chronic illness therapist can help your child and your entire family cope with and overcome lifestyle and family challenges, manage symptoms, relieve stress and serve as an empathetic outlet for frustration and worry. With the right help and support, your child or teen can manage symptoms and treatments and get back to simply being a kid.   

Chronic Illness Therapy Can Provide Your Child With Support, Skills And A New Path Forward

Chronic illness impacts every child and family in different ways. And, having a serious chronic illness at a young age can be not only an enormous physical challenge, but also an emotional burden, too. Whether your child is struggling with diabetes, cancer or an autoimmune illness, I will honor his or her experience and voice and create a therapy plan that best meets his or her needs. Together, we will find creative solutions that are tailor-made to your child and your family’s unique situation.  There is hope for your child and your family. There are many things that you, your child and family can do that can help make living with a chronic illness in the family much easier.

In the comfortable, safe space of chronic illness therapy sessions, I can help your child or teen identify his or her innate strengths and resources and provide him or her with coping skills to manage stressors. Using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Family Systems Therapy, mindfulness skills, experiential exercises and an active plan to implement in times of stress, your child can better manage anxiety and stress, which can relieve and reduce many chronic illness symptoms. I’ll help your child overcome medical anxiety, prepare for needle sticks and other medical procedures and learn to speak confidently to medical providers, self-advocating and asking questions. And, using cognitive behavioral techniques and solutions-focused strategies, I can help your child learn to manage self-care and medical appointments and effectively cope with stress on even the most challenging days. With a focus on self-care strategies, I can help older teens prepare to transition to adulthood and motivate kids of all ages to adhere to physicians’ recommendations and treatment plans—no matter how hard following the rules can be.  A very important part of the therapy process is helping your child and family become part of their treatment team. And, helping your child and family learn to advocate for his or her needs and feel comfortable talking with his or medical team can look different based on the child age. When a child feels a part of their treatment, he or she can feel more in control. An important message is your child is just as important as everyone else on his or her team – in fact, your child is the “most important” member of the treatment team.

I provide a safe, warm and empathetic space where your child can openly express his or her frustrations and desires without fear of judgment. Part of the therapy process includes focusing on normal, everyday child or teen stressors, including school anxiety, parents or peer relationship conflict and/or any aspect of your child’s life that he or she wishes to talk about. I use a solution-focused, integrative and collaborative approach to best help your child and the rest of your family cope with chronic illness. I can help you manage family dynamics and implement necessary changes so your family can support each other and adjust to a new way of living.

I am trained in clinical hypnosis and biofeedback techniques, which I incorporate when appropriate. Since 2001, I have been working with chronic illness patients in multiple settings including private practices, hospitals and cancer clinics. My mission is to help your child get what he or she wants in life, achieving goals and dreams in spite of illness.

Having a chronic illness can be upsetting and challenging. However, I know through years of experience that children dealing with illness are resilient, creative individuals who are wise beyond their years. As your child taps into his or her inner strengths and resources, he or she can learn to better manage living with chronic illness and improve his or her quality of life. Not only can your child learn how to best manage symptoms, but he or she can also experience joy, happiness and peace in the midst of his or her illness. Through feeling hopeful and empowered, your child can overcome challenges and live a healthier, happy life.

Some of the childhood chronic illnesses I work with include:

Asthma

Cancer

Sickle Cell

Juvenile Arthritis

Cystic Fibrosis

Diabetes

Lupus

Autoimmune Illnesses

Heart abnormalities

Metabolic Syndrome

Digestive issues

Crohn’s Disease

Kidney Disease

Food Allergies

Mental health issues related to physical conditions

You still may have questions and concerns about chronic illness counseling for children…

How can therapy possibly help with my child’s physical illness?

Chronic illness therapy is a non-medical, confidential space where your child can relax and share his or her experiences of illness, as well as normal, everyday struggles or concerns, which many kids struggle to speak to parents about. Having a non-medicalized space to talk to a therapist can do wonders for a child or teen who is used to having multiple doctors or hospital visits.

Being diagnosed with a chronic illness at a young age can be very stressful, increasing your child’s chance of developing anxiety, depression or persistent worry. An experienced chronic illness therapist can help your child learn valuable coping skills, relieve stress and increase optimism, allowing him or her to live more fully and overcome the obstacles chronic illness presents.

I don’t think my child will want to talk to a therapist about his/her illness.

It’s understandable for kids with a chronic illness to be fed up of talking about it and/or reluctant to confide in a stranger. As a chronic illness therapist with extensive experience working with chronically ill children, I can understand and connect with what your child is going through. It’s also important for your child to be able to talk about and explore all aspects of his or her life—not just illness. I see your child as a person, not an illness. I can help him or her integrate the experience of chronic illness with everything else that’s going on in his or her life, allowing your child to reduce stress, overcome worry and look toward the future with hope.

How do I know if my child or teen will benefit from chronic illness therapy?

If your child is exhibiting self-destructive behavior, such as refusing to take medication, becoming withdrawn or just doesn’t seem to be him or herself, counseling can be very beneficial. As a chronic illness therapist, I’ll be your child’s ally, helping him or her develop the coping skills needed to best manage chronic illness.

Your Child Can Learn To Manage Chronic Illness

I invite you to call 972-489-2658 today for a free 15-minute phone consultation. I can answer any questions you have about working with a chronic illness therapist and my practice.