Thursday, January 26, 2012

Teaching Children about Illness

My daughter is almost 2 1/2 years old now. She is incredibly smart and never forgets anything it seems. While she doesn't understand the particulars, she knows that Mommy hurts. It's normal to her that her grandmother and grandfather often pick her up and take her out to eat at one of her favorite places, Dairy Queen, while Mommy rests. She's used to having people from church come clean our house and friends bring us meals. She knows Daddy gives her a bath and gets up with her most mornings so Mommy can sleep later. It's normal to her that Mommy has to lay down on the couch and rest frequently, take medicine, sit on cushions, and use ice packs all the time.

I try not to cry in front of her a lot or talk about hurting all the time, but my kind of pain is pretty hard to hide. However, I've started to realize that she is very in tune to everything that is going on. Often my husband will use a rolling pin to massage the knots out of my legs or give me a massage when he gets home from work. If my daughter sees him she will come over and try to help or recently has started giving me a hug saying, "it's OK, Mommy". If I have an ice pack, she wants an ice pack.  If she sees me take medicine, she wants her vitamin.

But I don't want her to worry. I don't want to her to be scared and I don't want her going to school telling her friends that her Mommy's bottom hurts (I'm sure that day may come though)! I try to rest while she naps, use my ice as discretely as possible, and make tea party fun while I lie on the couch. But how do you keep chronic pain that never goes away and greatly limits your life away from your child? The reality is; you can't completely.  Whether she likes it or not, her mother is different than most mommies and this is something that she may have to deal with her whole life.

My pain has made me more diligent to use every day life to teach our daughter about God. If I have a good day and can do some housework, I tell her "God is good, He helps us be able to clean." We pray with her that God would give Mommy strength. When we have lots of food to eat, we talk about kids like our Compassion International sponsor child who doesn't have all the things we have. I want her to grow up understanding that nothing happens outside of God's control and that He loves us and has good plans for our life if we follow Him. We don't just want her to think God is something you talk about at church, but He is real and very much a part of our every day life.

One of my favorite children's books is God Knows My Name by Debby Anderson. It talks about how God knows everything and even before we were born God knew what would happen every day of our life.

We also love the Seeds Family Worship CD's and Hide 'em in Your Heart by Steve Green both of which take Bible verses and put them to music.  My daughter has learned so much scripture through these tools. It has been helpful when trying to discipline to sing the words of a Bible verse to her that she knows from her CD's and it's so sweet to see her singing along in the rear view mirror about storing up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20-21).

We pray that filling her mind and ears with these truths will help our daughter better accept that her mother has chronic pain and the future disappointments that are sure to come in her own life. Being the child in a family with prolonged suffering is never easy, but we want her to know that this is God's good and perfect plan for our family just as much as if I was healthy.
How do you handle your chronic illness or suffering with children?

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