COPE-ing with Childhood Health Issues

July 18, 2012 Brenna Carroll


Most of us are lucky enough to only need to visit the doctor for our yearly check up. For others, chronic conditions may be daily health struggles. With guidance from health care providers and a care plan in place, these conditions can often be managed and life can go on as normal. But what about children with chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes, epilepsy and even cancer?

As parents, it’s often difficult to understand where your child may be coming from—why the temper tantrum? Is blue hair really necessary? Do you have to sleep until noon? This is only heightened when a child has a chronic health issue that you don’t have and therefore can’t fully understand. Healthcare is confusing enough, and it’s even more so for children whose brains may not be developed enough to understand what is happening to their bodies. As a result, it can be challenging for parents to balance empathy with the need to provide structure and discipline.

Lisa Greene, a parent coach and educator with Swedish’s Community Health Education program, knows these difficulties first hand. The mother of two children with cystic fibrosis, she collaborated with Dr. Foster W. Kline, M.D. to develop a class based on the popular “Love and Logic” parenting series that is specifically targeted at families like hers. In “Parenting Children with Health Issues,” Lisa teaches families how to COPE:

  • Share Control between parents and kids;
  • Provide children Opportunities for thinking and decision making;
  • Help children develop Problem solving skills; and
  • Parent using Empathy before consequences.

When families have to deal with chronic conditions, there is often a great deal of uncertainty and stress. It’s hard enough being a kid and growing up, so learning to COPE can address much of the frustration that comes from this.

For both children with chronic conditions and the families that love and care for them, there are resources available to not only medically manage them but also manage the physical, psychological and emotional challenges that come along with them. Recognize that these concerns are normal and acceptable. Incorporate this into your child’s care plan and encourage your healthcare providers to do the same! And reach out—to friends, family and organizations.

Chronic conditions are a challenge for anybody, but especially for children and their families. Medicines and therapies do great things, but learning to cope with the conditions and learning to COPE as a parent, can make all the difference.

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