Parent Skill #6 — Maintain as much normalcy as possible in the life of your family

"Maintain as much normalcy as possible in the life your family."

That sounds easy, but it is one of the greatest challenges parents face. A good rule of thumb is to treat the child with a chronic illness, as much as possible, like any other child. Of course, you will also must consider your child's special needs, and incorporate those into the daily routine.

A good place to start is to try to refer to your child first, and the illness second. For example, you have a child with diabetes, not a diabetic child. This will help you and others to focus on the child, not the illness.

Family game night.

One activity that you and your child can do together (invite the whole family if you want) involves making a list entitled "Who Am I?" Each player lists the attributes, hobbies and characteristics that define that person. Kids usually make a long list before they include the diagnosis. They may include such things as golfer, mathematician, baby sitter, big brother, son, good friend, dog owner and person with cancer. This exercise helps your child realize that there is much more to life than the diagnosis. It can also serve to remind the whole family about the importance of all the normal activities and joys we often take for granted. Sometimes, it is difficult for young people to stay involved in activities and maintain normalcy in their lives.

Scouting might be a good choice.

It is very important for parents to encourage participation in activities that involve other children of the same age. Scouting, church groups, or casual friendships should be kept active if at all possible. Maintaining normal routines also aids in keeping the family in balance. For example, mealtimes, bedtimes, and family routines and rituals will keep the focus on the family instead of the illness.

Children typically do best when their daily routines are predictable and consistent. Of course, this is not always possible, but an effort should be made to maintain regular routines and schedules for all family members. The goal is to experience life fully, despite the diagnosis. This is a huge job for you and for your family, but it is well worth the effort. The result will be a child who continues to have emotional, psychological, academic and social health during the return to physical health.

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