Returning to Normal – Whatever THAT is!
“Every time my daughter falls and scrapes her knee I freak out. I need to know when I should be concerned and when I shouldn’t worry.”
Set up a meeting with your doctor/medical team as soon as possible to ask about problems that may come up as your family transitions back to “normal life” after treatment for a serious illness. Be sure to ask about both common and rare difficulties. This meeting can serve as a goal setting conference to help you revise your lifestyle from living with and around the illness to trying to live without the illness as the primary focus of you and your child’s life.
Remember, the aim is to shift the illness itself to the sidelines and establish goals or steps for changes in your daily routine, follow-up visits etc.
Most important: Trust your instincts
It will take time and effort to return your mindset from an emergency response to one of less intensity. The more you know, the better you will be at sensing when something “isn’t right” with your child – even if you don’t know what or why. You will see the subtle changes or clues that no one else will notice. Trust your instincts as important and valid insights into getting what you need for your child. Your health care team can help translate what you see or sense into what might be happening and what to do next.
But how do I know when my reactions are within the realm of “normal?” What is “overreacting?”
The following are questions to ask yourself and some early warning signals or triggers you can use to help you determine when it is necessary and appropriate to seek help:
- When is it serious enough to seek help for this?
- How much preventative approach is there to these?
- What should you be “screening for” in the back of your mind that might be signs things are not staying on an upward curve?
- It may help to make an agreement with your child about the things they should tell you as the parent, the benefit of early response to new problems etc.
- Balance the need for normalcy with the need for open and honest communication about notifying you of new/recurring problems.
- Ask yourself if this is similar to what might have happened prior to onset of the illness (regular incidents equal a less panicked response). Or, are you reacting more fearfully now because of what you and your child have been through?
- Fear begets more fear; both in you and your child.
- Your entire family will need time and support to reframe these incidents as they come up.
- As a parent you will have to stretch to allow your child to have more control, autonomy and independence, just as they would under normal circumstances.
- Try to create an agreement with your child to keep in touch regularly and keep agreed upon curfews/ arrival times.
If you are feeling overly stressed, losing sleep and worrying constantly, you may be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is a real disorder that can and should be treated by a professional. Be sure you talk openly with your doctor – be honest – about your feelings and fears.