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COPING WITH STRESS WHEN YOUR CHILD HAS A CHRONIC ILLNESS OR DISABILITY
BY FAWNE HANSEN

Parenting is hard, but it is a skill that is often assumed to naturally exist in parents. Virginia Satir, one of the first social workers in the area of family therapy, used these words:

“In some ways we got the idea that raising families was all instinct and intent, and we behave as if anyone could be an effective parent simply because he wanted to be, or because he just happened to go through the acts of conception and birth. This is the most complicated job in the world.”

As tough as parenting can be, it becomes even more difficult when our children are diagnosed with a chronic illness or disability. We go through a wide range of emotions including denial, anger, frustration, guilt, resentment, depression, and fear. All of these feeling are natural. After the initial shock and disbelief, parents may feel alone and helpless. It is an unbelievably stressful time – like nothing you have ever experienced before in their lives.

At this moment, when your child is first and foremost in your mind, parents must also learn how to cope with their own feelings and stressors. You will have days of wild emotional swings, with feelings of despair followed by moments of fulfillment. How you learn to take care of your own needs will determine how you are most able to effectively help your child. If you pinpoint the sources of stress and set up management strategies, you will be able to work through this inner turmoil while going through the process of building a relationship with your child.

In this article I will cover the following areas:

Internal Stressors
External Stressors
Physiological Stressors
Recognizing The Symptoms Of Stress
6 Strategies For Managing Stress

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