5 Ways a Sick Child Changes Your Life

Parenting a sick child
Our Scotty at four-years-old

Some time ago my son almost died in the shower. Yes, in the shower.

Scotty had his first grand mal seizure over two years ago and has battled them ever since. Some weeks he has none, while others finds him battling four in three days.

A while back he had one in the shower that almost took him from us.

According to the doctors, it’s entirely possible that he’ll grow out of his epilepsy one day and be seizure free. We look forward to that day.

In the meantime, we are parenting a sick child and that changes things.

Not being aware of and adjusting to such changes could wreck havoc on your health and relationships most important to you.

While not an exhaustive list, here are five major changes that a sick child brings to a family and adjustments that will counteract them.

Five things that Parenting a Sick Child Changes:

1. Your Schedule Changes

There are two main reasons for this.

Cause # 1: Frequent Healthcare Appointments.

Scotty has ongoing checkups in the form of bloodwork, MRI’s, etc.

Some of these appointments require him to go to a specialist an hour away.

These regular appointments eat away large chunks of your monthly schedule right off the bat.

Cause # 2: Unexpected Health Incidents.

Scotty’s recent seizure required a four-hour emergency room visit. A few days before that, my wife had to drive across town and get him from school after he had a seizure during class.

At any given moment, a relapse or a bout with the sickness can completely throw a monkey wrench into your plans.

My Advice:

Understand that you will just have to disappoint some people by not being able to commit to certain responsibilities that require your presence.

You also might have to cancel plans at the last minute to take care of your child. People that don’t have sick children might not understand, but it’s quite normal.

You just can’t do what you used to.

Also, you might have to disappoint yourself. Quite possibly you will have to quit doing some things that you really enjoy.

If you are a dual income family, one of you might have to quit a job that you really like or adjust your hours. At some point, these complex choices are going to have to be met head on.

Although it was not the primary reason for resigning my church and moving back to my hometown, having a sick child was definitely a significant factor in this difficult decision.

2. Your Budget Changes

Scotty’s medical expenses are much, much, more costly than the other five members of our family combined.

Neurology, medication, ER visits, and ambulance rides are not cheap.

My Advice:

Develop the mindset that no matter how high the bills mount, you are blessed to have been given such a beautiful child.

Money pressure is real. But in light of your child’s mortality, it’s just money.

3. Your Psyche Changes

When your child has a near death experience or visibly struggles with a health issue it rocks you to the core mentally.

I will never forget the place I went to emotionally when I thought Scotty had died in my arms that cold February day of his first seizure.

My wife will forever be marked by the image of him lying down, white as a sheet, water up to his mouth in the shower as a seizure had him on lockdown.

When you see your child battling something too big for them, it picks at the corners of your soul, your psyche and emotions.

It’s hard to ever totally relax when he’s out of our sight. When any of our kids get that thousand-yard-stare, our survival instincts kick in and we wonder whether or not they’re about to start seizing.

You just can’t unsee some things.

My Advice:

Take care of your anxiety.

My wife and I are people of faith that pray and believe that God is in control of all things, including Scotty’s well-being.

In addition, I go to counseling.

And as previously mentioned, we moved back home to be around our family and lifelong friends.

I can’t overstate just how valuable the confluence of these coping factors has been in our well being.

We fall apart sometimes, but our faith and our support system bring peace and calm when we need it most.

4. Your Marriage Changes

Be careful here. Marriages often fail under the strain of parenting a sick child.

Reflect upon the stressors we’ve discussed so far — time strain, financial strain, mental strain.

All three of these have a direct impact on your marriage. You have more stress, you have more bills, you have less time.

It’s not surprising that many couples don’t survive this trifecta.

My Advice:

Sure, you have to take care of your child.

But part of taking care of your child means taking care of your marriage.

You must be intentional about not letting your child demand all of your focus, energy, and affection.

5. Your Heart Changes

My empathy for others grew by leaps and bounds when Scotty got sick.

When I hear of others going through struggles, I no longer mentally move on to the next topic at hand. My heart won’t let me.

I cry with others more often. I go out of my way to help others more often. I hug more often.

My Advice:

Don’t allow the crucible of parenting a sick child to harden your heart.

It is easy to become angry at the injustice of your child having to fight a health issue.

Always keep in mind, while your anger won’t heal your child, it could destroy your soul.

Don’t let it.

If you make every effort to process the pain in the right way, something new and beautiful might begin to spring forth in your heart.

Always Remember, You’re Not Alone

Four days before Scotty’s near death experience an acquaintance sent me a message saying that she was praying for Scotty.

So when Sarah and I took our eyes off of him for a few minutes as we worked to get the other three kids to bed, I believe God kept watching.

I don’t know how or why he disobediently closed the stopper to the shower. I don’t know how many more minutes or seconds he had before his head slid completely under the water.

But someone did.

And that’s a really comforting to know when you’re parenting a sick child.

 

Do you have any experience in parenting a sick child? Which challenges did you face? How did you overcome them? Do I need to add one or two to the list?

Join the conversation below in the “comments” section.

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