When children become "patients", parents become anxious. No wonder. We
all grow up believing that childhood should be carefree, happy, playful,
healthy. And as grown-ups, we hold ourselves personally responsible for
the well-being of our children. So when children are sick, or injured,
or disabled...and those categories represent a significant slice of the
demographic pie of childhood... parents suffer, too.
Fleitas, Ed.D., R.N
an unfortunate yet pervasive myth that whispers "if you play your parent
roles well, your children will be protected from all harm." Parents who
believe that myth believe that when Amy gets sick, they are to blame, and
that her hospitalization makes visible their inadequacies as parents. As
they admit Amy to the care of strangers, they see in the event a reflection
of their failure.
even more. If her parents believe themselves responsible for six year old
Amy's hospitalization, they'll want to somehow make it up to her. They'll
want to absolve their guilt. So here's what they do:
all of these things with the best of intentions, but with outcomes that
aren't in the best of Amy's interests, and not in the best of their own.
Remember that guilt is one of the roots of that iceberg, where anger is
often its visible face. Masquerading as other emotions and behaviors as
well, guilt is as sneaky as it is destructive.
the princess, with her every whine becoming their command.
by her side, at all times.
at the hospital door--appropriate at home, but not while she's in the hospital.
for her that she can do for herself.
what they can do to bring it out to the light of day, where it loses its
power. When Amy needs surgery following an injury, they could talk to themselves,
acknowledging that bad things do happen to children, just like they happen
to adults. And that there are many events in life that are beyond their
power to control, despite how much they'd like to change their course.They
could remind themselves how powerful their role remains as her parents,
her protectors, and that the strength of their support is a powerful buffer
to the tough things that she may be exposed to during her hospitalization.
how they perceive such realities as illness and injury and disability will
help them to parent Amy successfully, by communicating their:
of her distress.
that she can manage things with their help.
about desired behavior.
that she can do most things for herself.
that she'll be OK when they take breaks.
Professor of Nursing, Lehman College, CUNY
Bronx, New York 10468
updated: November 14, 2004