An adult living with sickle cell is one thing but how does a parent go about explaining sickle cell to children? How do you begin to explain to your child that he/she can't do certain things that his/her friends are able to? When they start asking questions about why they continually have to take medication or have more doctors' appointments than normal, what do you say?
I know for certain that this can be especially hard for parents to explain to children in a manner that they can both understand and not be fearful of at the same time. The question then becomes at what age does it become necessary for moms and dads to try to break down sickle cell disease to their precious little ones?
In my experience, I do not really recall a time that my parents sat my siblings down to explain that they had sickle cell or what it meant when they were young. However, as they became older, they began to understand that they had to take 'extra precautions' unlike their friends. Before becoming adults, they were told what to do, what they couldn't do and that was it but experts tell parents to encourage their children to participate fully (to the best of their ability and according to their tolerance level) in extra-curricular activities but to take frequent rests and increased hydration. Similar advice is given for precautions in hot weather and participation in winter activities.
Explaining sickle cell to children can begin as early as when the child starts to understand and grasp details and information; this could be any age (depending on the child) from 5 and above. Parents need to know that encouragement is essential at every point with their children because having this illness could result in reduced self esteem and lack of confidence. Keep the lines of communication open between you and your child so they can freely come to you whenever they experience any new or worsening symptoms.
As parents with children suffering from any chronic illness or disease, it can get incredibly stressful putting a tremendous amount of strain and pressure on the family but it is important to remember that there are resources available to support you and your child.
How do you think parents can go about explaining sickle cell to their children? Comment below..