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You are here : home > Child's Healthcare > When parents fall sick > When parents fall sick

When parents fall sick



A parent's illness is an anxious time for the whole family and maybe more so for the children because they don't know what's going on. When parents fall sick, children tend to worry that they are going to die or disappear and they wonder who's going to look after them. Parents have to understand that their children derive a lot of comfort from the predictability of their routine.

Even if you're sick, you're still a parent

Reena Malkani, mother of 6-year-old Ankit, had to have an emergency appendectomy. She says, "I was in agony because my appendix was inflamed. I couldn't see straight from the pain. I just knew that I wanted it to stop. I didn't give a thought to what my son must be thinking."

This is not unusual because when a person falls ill, the only thing that they can think of is getting better. The fact that they are parents becomes secondary. Unfortunately, you can't take time off from being a parent. It's a lifetime thing. 
 

An anxious time for children

A parent's illness is an anxious time for the whole family and maybe more so for the children because they don't know what's going on. When parents fall sick, children tend to worry that they are going to die or disappear and they wonder who's going to look after them. 

When children see their parents laid up in bed or in pain, they resent the fact that things are not the same and that 'mommy' or 'daddy' is not available to them any more in the usual way. Children are too young to be rational and unselfish. Parents distracted by worries about their illness and unable to spend time with their children may unwittingly give rise to thoughts in their children's minds that their parents don't love them any more. Parents have to understand that their children derive a lot of comfort from the predictability of their routine. 
 

Children need to know

Often parents in a misguided attempt to 'protect' their children tell them that everything is all right. However, this creates further confusion in the children's mind because they are perceptive enough to see that there is definitely something wrong and their parents are communicating a conflicting message. 

If your sickness is going to keep you in bed for a few days, make it a point to briefly explain to your children that you are going to have to rest for a few days so that you can get better quickly and play with them.

It's important that all family members and close friends stick to the story that you have told your children. It will be very confusing and worrying for your children if they are told things about your illness that are not consistent with your version of the story. 
 

Going to hospital 

If you need to be hospitalized, it is going to make your children even more anxious if possible. It's bad enough that you are not well enough to go on with your parenting duties as usual, but now they don't even have your physical presence to give them some reassurance. It may be difficult, but you're going to have to take the time out to explain in simple words what is the matter with you. They are not going to understand the details of something like an inflamed appendix. But what you can tell them is that there is this little part of your body that is hurting you and the doctor is going to make you better by taking it out at the hospital. Older children can be given more information because they will be able to comprehend more. 

You are also going to have to make arrangements to ensure that your children's routine remains undisturbed as far as possible. For instance, you can explain to your children that even if you don't come to pick them up at school as usual, your spouse or somebody else that they are familiar with will be there. Take any help that is offered in order to minimize upsetting your children's routine. 

Children below the age of five can be taken for hospital visits, but they will have to be prepared in advance for the sights, sounds and smells. Avoid bringing them to the hospital if you (or your roommate if you have one) are hooked up to machines. It's better if they visit you when you can sit up or even walk around. It's more reassuring.
 

Coming home

When you come back from the hospital, your children are going to expect you to be as good as new and slide back into your routine as soon as you walk in the door. Unfortunately, leaving the hospital does not mean that you're fighting fit. Often you will need more time to recover your strength. Your children are probably not going to like this or understand it. You are going to have to explain that while you may look fine on the outside, you are still going to need your rest before you completely recovered. 

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Recent comments (8 comments)
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Comment: 
Name: Mom of two
Country: U.S.A.

hi ,i am a mother of two girls (one 5 year and one 2 year old). one year back suddenly i felt pain in my right leg which caused me to worry as i couldnt do anything,and then i went with steroids ,mri but it was getting worse and worse..i had an mri and they said it was a disc bulge and i couldnt do the things i am supposed to do with kids like lifting or bending or playing iwth them,,,i have been living with it from one year but there is not a day my kids complained me..poor thing they understood my point and my older one especially is helping and taking care of me lot more than everyone...i am guilty for not doing the motherhood things i am supposed to do but i dont have a way.... but its a blessing that kids understand your pain and know to live with it...so dont hesitate to tell them the truth , they will take it more easily than we think..
 
Name: TJ
Country: U.S.A.

our toddler has begun acting aggressively in daycare since i have fallen ill. how do my wife and i approach the subject without making him feel worse? we have to obviously have to address the behavior, but we want him to understand that i am still his buddy. help!
 
Name: CA.Rajesh Dholu
Country: India

absolutely fantastic.for parents of newly born child definetly benefitted. it will solve so many problems which are unknown to us.
 
Name: Michele
Country: canada

while i agree that it may be disturbing for a child to see a parent hooked up to a machine, i don't agree that this means children should be kept away. i think that for some children having a parent disappear (into the hospital) is much more disturbing. my 3 yr old daughter visited me and became quite used to my iv and tubes. once she understood what they were she forgot all about them.
 
Name: fart
Country: Dubai

i think its sad wen parents are sick!!!!! yea man get ur groove on
 
Name: Lisa
Country: England

you should always look after your child even when you or your partner falls ill. even if that means asking someone else to take care of your child. children at a young age will not understand what is happening so you must reasure your child.
 
Name: anjali
Country: India

a very useful article. everyone should read it so that they dont make the mistakes we make all the time . saying things that confuse instead of reassure.. also we try to do more than we are capable of after the operation/sickness because we dont want our children to worry or be un looked afer for more than abs. needed. as a result we make things more difficult for us. so we should take time to talk and explain to our children in words they understand, so every one comes out easily when a parent falls ill. well done, very good article.
 
Name: Sameer
Country: India

nothing can substitude parents, what the little children thinks. they are absolutely right. we can live without parents. but without parents life is very though. i also take care of my parents, when they are ill. it is my love and responsibilty to look after them because of them i am here in the beautiful world...


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