Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Communication behind illness

My son missed his first day of school this year because he wasn't feeling well. We spent time cuddling and I took extra time to be with him, putting the computer down, and letting the housework not get done. I understood that this illness was communicating something important- that he needs more of my love and attention right now. Kids get sick when they have needs that are not being met- needs for connection. Yes, there are germs out there and illness is passed around. But children who have parents who connect with them in the way they need them to rarely get sick or hurt. Call it stress-related illness and positive, healthy relationships mediate the stress and the body's immune system's response to the invading germs. We are all exposed to the same germs, so why don't we all get sick from everything we are exposed to?

This may be a source of disagreement. But think of when you were a kid and you were sick. What did you want? What did you need from your parents or caregivers? Some of the most tender memories I have heard people share have been when the individual was sick as a child and someone took care of him or her with love.

When our children are sick, we are encouraged to give them medicine and put them to bed to rest. I suggest making them comfortable and pulling up a pillow if they'll let you. Snuggle in. If your child is very young, spend time holding your child while they sleep, if possible. Children need appropriate physical touch, comfort, unconditional love, respect, and an emotionally present adult to value them. When our children are sick, it is an opportunity to stop and do these things to connect if we haven't been doing them as much as our children need us to do them.

BUT won't that make them want to be sick all the time just to get my attention? If a child is sick, it is saying that your child needs more of your attention when they are well. Don't wait until your child is sick to spend time together. This is something that needs to happen every day. Yes, if you don't do this on a daily basis, your child may choose to communicate with you this way if you do only respond to them when sick. Your child needs you to connect with him or her in meaningful ways on a regular, daily basis. Illness is a late indicator that things are out of balance. Heed the communication and spend some long-overdue time with your child connecting in a meaningful way to reconnect in relationship and make a plan to stay connected in the future.

It is especially common this time of the year for a reason. Look at the stress levels in your own life. How much are you able to connect with your child? More than any "thing," your child really just needs you to be emotionally present. Something important to consider in our thing oriented emotionally disconnected world. We do have to make a conscious effort to turn off the outside noise (TV, cell phones, music, video games, etc.) in order to connect. It is well worth the effort.


brenkachicka said...

I totally agree! I used to run a home daycare. One morning my little 4 year old daycare girl began throwing up. I called her mom to tell her. She insisted it was just food poisoning -that they all had it -even the dog who ate the leftovers -and that her little one would be fine left at daycare because she was not contagious! I told her that the girl needed extra love and attention because she was so sick (not to mention I did not have time as a daycare provider to clean up all the puke...) and that I was not in a position with multiple kids to take care of to give her little girl the love and attention that only momma can give! She came and got her.
I wish more people understood the connection to illness and attention.
It is also worthwhile to mention that my 7 year old who is autistic RARELY gets sick. He is one healthy kid. Maybe that's the way his brain works. He does not like that kind of attention and does not like people in his space.

FaerieMama said...

You are so right. I am SO glad I'm not the only one who thinks this way!

Annie said...

Strangely, as a child I only recall being ill once a year or so. My mother might bring me an ice cube in a little cup...and she'd give me cream of mushroom soup....but other than that - no attention; no company. Just left alone. But that was lovely. I must have been genuinely sick - because that's all I wanted.