Robert Louis Stevenson (who suffered from pulmonary tuberculosis)
Childhood illness is perhaps the most disruptive of family related health events because it is unusual and
falls outside of the normative life course of most families.
THE INITIAL DIAGNOSIS
In the initial stage you may go through a period of intense emotion which is characterized by shock,
disbelief and sometimes denial. Denial is a normal response to grieving any type of loss. Probably all
family members experience various degrees of adaptive denial as they learn of the impact that the
diagnosis has on their lives.
Adjustment gradually follows shock and is usually characterized by an open admission that the condition
exists. This stage is one of chronic sorrow and only partial acceptance. And is characterized by several
responses probably the most universal of which are guilt and self accusation.
Other common reactions are bitterness or anger. Anger directed inwards may be evident as self
reproaching or punitive behaviour - such as neglecting ones health. Anger directed outwards may be
manifested in open arguments or withdrawal from communication and may be evident in the persons
relationship with individuals such as the spouse, the child and siblings. One of the most common targets
for parental anger is members of staff; parents may complain about the nursing care or the insufficient
time doctors spend with them.
During the period of adjustment, four types of parental reactions to the child, influence the child’s
eventual response to the disorder.
*Overprotection, in which the parents fear letting the child achieve any new skill, avoid all discipline, and
cater to every desire to prevent frustration.
*Rejection in which the parents detach themselves emotionally from the child, but usually provide
adequate physical care or constantly nag and scold the child.
*Denial in which parents act as if the disorder does not exist or attempt to have the child overcompensate
*Gradual acceptance, in which parents place necessary and realistic restrictions on the child, encourage
self care activities and promote reasonable physical and social abilities.
Diagnosis of the condition – requires considerable learning as well as dealing with the emotional response.
THE EFFECTS OF A CHRONIC ILLNESS IN THE FAMILY