Our son Jamie, who was ill with juvenile arthritis, was about 8 at the time of his diagnosis, and our youngest son, Mark was 6.  Mark had a serious problem with separation anxiety, difficulty going to sleep and bad dreams.  As caring and loving parents we tried everything in our power to help him. Finally, having found no insights or solutions to this anxiety, we took him to a child psychologist.  She was very skillful and quickly got to the root of the problem.

Mark could see that Jamie was ill.  He knew that he missed a lot of school, went to the doctor a lot and took many pills.  Mark had a six-year-old way of thinking about illness.  He thought that if you got sick, you eventually either got better or you died. 

Having seen Jamie be sick for so long, he was under the impression that Jamie was dying.  We had no idea that he was thinking that way.  Then to top it off, he thought that he was the only one that cared that Jamie was dying and that my husband and I were just going on with life as usual without even caring.  The missing link here was very simple. 

Once the concept of chronic illness was explained to Mark, it was as if a light went on. What a burden for a little boy to carry, and what a simple solution.  The separation anxiety did not disappear instantaneously but it didn't take too long.  Nonetheless, it was clear that the psychologist's explanation of chronic illness got him more than half way on the road to recovery.

Hoping that you might learn from our experience...

Pat Weiler

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Joan Fleitas, Ed.D., R.N.
Associate Professor of Nursing, Lehman College, CUNY
Bronx, New York 10468
Last updated: November 18, 2004