TAKING CARE OF YOU

Take Care of Yourself

No One expects life changing illness or injuries to happen.  And when it’s your child, it’s normal to feel upset, worried, or alone.

Take Care of Yourself

No One expects life changing illness or injuries to happen.  And when it’s your child, it’s normal to feel upset, worried, or alone.

Additional Resources
Additional Resources

As a parent or caregiver, you have important job: to be your child’s source of strength. In order to be strong for your child, you will need to take care of yourself.

It’s important to recognize this is a stressful time for you. Having an ill or injured child often challenges your innermost beliefs about the safety of your children. You’re worried about what will happen to your child, even if you are not showing that to others. It’s common to also not feel ready to talk to your child (and their siblings) about feelings and worries.

While it may feel impossible to believe, in order to support your child and your family, it’s important to take care of yourself.

As a parent or caregiver, you have important job: to be your child’s source of strength. In order to be strong for your child, you will need to take care of yourself.

It’s important to recognize this is a stressful time for you. Having an ill or injured child often challenges your innermost beliefs about the safety of your children. You’re worried about what will happen to your child, even if you are not showing that to others. It’s common to also not feel ready to talk to your child (and their siblings) about feelings and worries.

While it may feel impossible to believe, in order to support your child and your family, it’s important to take care of yourself.

Taking care of yourself

Pay attention to your own stress and emotions. Talk about what you are feeling and experiencing with people you trust, such as family, friends, clergy, your doctor or counselor.

  1. Take time to practice self-care. This may sound impossible in the midst of pressing treatment demands or your child’s needs, but it can be an investment that helps you help your child over the long haul. If you are not sleeping or eating, it will be harder to help your child.
  2. Be especially careful not to increase smoking, alcohol or other unhealthy ways of coping when you feel worried, upset or stressed.
  3. Notice your own signs and symptoms of traumatic stress reactions, and ask your close family and friends to help you notice if you are struggling to cope with these reactions.

You might realize that since the diagnosis, your relationships with friends and family member have changed. That’s normal. Having an ill or injured child can make it hard to maintain friendships or other relationships.  You might find that some friends and family members are upset and may share that with you. Others might keep their distance or think everything is fine once your child comes home. It’s important to remember everyone copes in different ways and needs time to adjust.

Managing anxiety

Many parents experience anxiety during and after the child’s treatment and recovery. Scanxiety related to your child’s upcoming medical tests or even your own, is also very common.

What is anxiety? Anxiety is the feeling of constant worry, panic, faster than normal heart rate and breathing, sweaty palms, being unable to concentrate or remember, upset stomach, and several symptoms. It the “fight or flight” feeling you may experience, and it functions to warn you about danger. Unfortunately, when your child is sick or injured, feelings of anxiety can go into overdrive, and everything may feel like a threat or dangerous.

How to cope with anxiety? There are many ways to cope with anxiety, including professional treatments.

  1. Deep Breathing : Practicing deep breathing can help calm your mind and body. When you feel your anxiety level rising, try taking a deep, belly breathe in (aim for 5-7 seconds), hold your breath (5 seconds), and then slowly breathe out (aim for 8-10 seconds).
    Link: Breaathe2Relax
  2. Mindfulness : Mindfulness helps bring your thoughts and emotions back to the present moment, rather than future or past. Like deep breathing, there are many ways to practice mindfulness. As you feel your anxiety increasing, bring yourself back to the present moment by noticing and describing (either in your thoughts or out loud) in as much detail as you can everything you can  see, hear, smell, and feel.
    Link: Headspace
  3. Distraction : When anxious feelings overwhelm you, sometimes distraction can be helpful to calm you down. Watching your favorite TV show or movie, engaging in a favorite activity (exercise, coloring, playing a sport), or playing a game on your phone or tablet can provide relief from your anxious thoughts.
    Link: Recolor
Ways to Renew Your Relationships
  1. Be patient – In times of stress, fights might happen more often. Let everyone calm down and then return to the discussion.
  2. Listen – It’s hard, but be willing to hear what your family members and friends thoughts and feelings. It’s okay if they’re not the same as yours!
  3. Share – sharing your thoughts and feelings with family and friends can be scary. It can help you avoid conflicts and let you feel closer and more supported.
  4. Reach out to others – If you feel alone, reach out to someone you trust, even to say hello. Arrange to spend time with them.
  5. Make an effort to stay in touch – If a friend or family member seems to be distant, try to reach out and reconnect. They might not know what to say or do.
  6. Relax and take your mind off things – Take time to get together with friends and family have fun. Go to the movies, go shopping, watch / play sports, or do other fun or relaxing activities.
How to Ask for Help
  1. Accept – and ask for – help from those around you
  2. Let other people help you and try to be comfortable telling them what kind of help you need (and what you don’t).
  3. Make a list of things you might need- bringing a meal or taking care of your other children-you can refer to this when people call to ask how they can help you.
  4. Assess everyday routines to see what others might be able to help out with.
  5. Accept help from family, friends and neighbors. They can assist with:
    •  Grocery Shopping
    •  Cooking Meals
    •  Staying at your home with your other children so you can go out with your spouse
  6. Assign one trusted person to be the contact or have one central webpage, like a private Facebook group or Carepage, to update information.  Ask family and friends to go to the designated person or page so you are not overwhelmed with calls.
Ways you can ask for community help

Practical help:

  1. Let your friends and family know that the best gift they can give you is TIME.  Ask them to sit with your child so you can have a break.
  2. Do you have other children?  Ask your family or friends to take them on a play date.
  3. Do you have pets? Ask family and friends to assist with them.
  4. Create a list of things you would like help with when you are home.  Housecleaning, weeding and meal preparation to name a few.
  5. Let the community know that you appreciate the meals that you receive but give them some suggestions of what your family likes, how much you may need and what foods you have had recently so you do not end up with baked ziti for the third night in a row! Try a free program like SignUpGenious.com to help coordinate meals.
  6. Would gift cards to the grocery store or restaurants be useful? Think of those options when you are asked what you need. Create a list of your family’s favorite restaurants and be sure to include the name of the grocery store too.  (Ones that do not expire)
    Tip: Think of restaurants that are close to the hospital too so you can order food when you have to stay overnight.
  7. Don’t be afraid to ask for things for yourself like a pedicure. Pedicures are a nice gift and they give you a little time to relax and focus on you.

Checking in and being flexible:

  1. Appointments and hospitalizations may make it hard to predict when your family is home for delivery of meals.  Let community members know if home cooked meals are good for your family or if there are better ways they can provide support.
  2. It is okay to ask visitors to call or text before stopping by to make sure everyone is up to having visitors or nothing is scheduled during that time.
  3. Ask friends/family to stop by for coffee, lunch, etc. so you can vent or take a break from conversations related to your child’s illness or injury.
  4. You may not know what to say when someone asks “what can I do” and that is okay.  Let family and friends know that you may not have those answers at the present time but you will think about it and get back to them with an answer.

Helping while your child is at the hospital:

  1. Ask your visitors to think about siblings too when bringing gifts to the hospital.  If you need something, don’t be afraid to ask for that as well.
  2. Would fruit, homemade cookies, a craft project for your child or a gift card to a local restaurant be a good gift for visitors to bring to the hospital? Give them a suggestion of what would be helpful for your family.

When your child is in the hospital, it’s natural to want to spend as much time with them as possible. It’s also natural to feel guilty for not being at home with your other children. It’s hard to be in two places at one time. During these times, try to let family members and friends help, rather than trying to do everything yourself.

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