On a scale from one to ten, one being a completely arbitrary number which could easily represent the best or the worst and ten being the absolute stopping point even though you and I both know a twelve is not out of the question, how do you feel about this appointment?
My children can be quite dramatic when they are sick (whether by a literal virus or because of homework or being told “no” to Minecraft). They develop runny noses, a cough, and moan for hours. In fact, I would guess I hear that a child of mine will just DIE if such and such a few times a week. My youngest is prone to very dramatic falls, crumplings really, followed by the most heart wrenching sobs and concluded with a self-eulogy.
But behind the laughter and the drama is the truth.
And the truth is that despite the impossibility of it, my children seem to produce fevers over 101 out of thin air and their stomach aches do seem to unravel into very serious medical issues that require major next steps, surgery, or long-term care. As a parent of very sensitive and feeling gifted children, and being a tad sensitive myself (in space terms), I realized how hard it must be for them to determine the difference between real sick and really sick and tired. A friend asked how I talked to my daughter who has been hospitalized twelve times, sometimes for two week runs, and has undergone surgery, all at such a young age. I thought about it and decided to blog it…
It is difficult for them to know when it is appropriate to be concerned. This is especially true when the doctors talk to us in appointments and they are just there, talked about in third-person, with terms and steps they do understand and are frightened by flying about above them as if they shouldn’t be part of the conversation.
There are five things that I have always used to help me prepare my children for doctor appointments, hospital stays, and surgeries:
- I always tell them the truth and I never sugarcoat it! If my child will be having blood drawn or will be given a shot, I tell them the truth. I feel as though the revelation of the lie is much worse than the pain of the shot. I tell them I’ll be there for them, why it is being done, and I tell them that if they are concerned we can ask the doctor to explain further. None of my children are head over heels in love with needles; but so far, this truth method has made my children brave, trusting, and it has helped them realize it’s over very quickly. (and then I skip to number 5)
- I talk to my child directly and/or ask the healthcare professional to talk to them directly, too! If the doctors, as they are wont to do, start to discuss with me as if the child isn’t there, I find a way to draw the child back into the conversation. If the doctors or nurses ask me to answer a question, I will turn to my child and see if he or she has input. I have even told the doctor or nurse that my child prefers to know what is happening first or I will save conversations for when my child isn’t around altogether. I want my kids to be able to advocate for their own health; and this is, I hope, the first step towards that. (and then I skip to number 5)
- I tell the doctor my child is gifted if I need to. I am not embarrassed or worried about it sounding wrong or arrogant or braggy! I am quite certain if my children had any other special need I would mention that if it were relevant. There is a chance the doctor will look at you like, “Um, okay, this is a strep test at an urgent care,” but there is also the chance that the doctor will have experience with giftedness (or be, themselves, gifted) and maybe they’ll understand that the fight is not so irrational. Maybe it is all about the tactile issue of a stick in the mouth and the scrape at the back, and how that issue is blown out of proportion at the moment, but that holding them down would only further heighten the need to not have tactile invasions. When my children are frightened or worried, it matters to them, so it matters to me. So when I must- I do! (and then I skip to number 5)
- I allow my child to worry. When I was a child my parents constantly told me not to worry and they told me it was okay. Sounds blissful, right? But it wasn’t blissful since I wasn’t ignorant of what was happening around me. So when my child worries we discuss their worries, list out their fears, and ultimately we determine that worrying won’t help them get better, it’s useless if there is no real problem, it’s not helpful when there is a real problem, and that it will only make them feel worse. (and then I skip to number 5)
- Hugs. Lots of them. Number five is my go-to answer for everything. If the owie is real… it works. If the owie is not… it works just as well.
I hope you have found this list helpful. My children have had their fair share of scary hospital stays, surgeries, and medical concerns, as well as their fair share of faked deaths and horrible, horrible moments brought on by lost stuffed animals, too much homework, or being tired. We will all get through this!
Number 5 to you all!