How Parents can help a Child living with Sickle Cell Disorder grow to be Sickle Strong
You might wonder what it means to be sickle strong.
It is a term thrown around to mean someone who lives with sickle cell yet they are strong and are slaying.
Now back to the topic.
Living with sickle cell is tough but to be a child living with sickle cell disorder is tougher. It is tough for the parent and everyone in the house especially when they don’t understand the condition.
As a child living with sickle cell disorder, you don’t understand why you can’t do things your peers do. You can’t handle the pain and you might begin to question your existence.
I had lots of things that bothered me as a child, many of which affected my esteem and confidence. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that I wasn’t growing like every other child or why I couldn’t play as hard as I want with friends.
A child’s life or growth in life is partly influenced by the parent. So for a child living with sickle cell to grow into a strong, confident and mentally fit adult despite sickle cell, it is influenced by the parent and parents can do a lot to make sure that their children grow to be sickle strong.
In this post, I wrote nine ways that will help parents groom their children. This is not to blame you as a parent but to educate you on how to help the child become sickle strong.
So shall we?
Nine ways to help a child living with sickle cell grow to be Sickle Strong
1. Educate him/her in a fun and not in a scary way
Before you educate someone, of course you have to educate yourself. So learn everything about sickle cell. The complications, how to avoid them, the treatments everything you can learn.
And educate your child in a fun way rather than speaking fear into them. Make them understand what it means to live with sickle cell and how they might seem different.
2. Feed him/her well
Nutrition plays a huge role in growth of a child living with sickle cell. Diet rich in vegetables, proteins and plenty of fruits are beneficial to your child’s health.
Children with sickle cell might have low appetite but you can help them eat more by spicing or garnishing their meal, making them eat at intervals rather than at once, and giving them food supplements.
Read this article by eatright.org to have a deeper understanding of how important nutrition is in children living with sickle cell.
3. Let them know that water is therapeutic
Water can prevent crisis and that is why doctors and everyone knowledgeable keep telling people living with sickle cell disorder to drink plenty of water.
Water aids the movement of the red blood cells through the blood vessels and consequently reduces crisis level and frequency.
Make your child love water. You can add taste to it by slicing fruits into their water, give them water when they are not eating.
Let them understand the importance of water in their body.
4. Don’t show sympathy, show empathy
No one wants to see their child go through pain but that might not be the case for you if your child lives with sickle cell.
I know you feel sorry for the pain and wish you could take the pain instead, but don’t show the sorry face when your child is around, it only makes them sad.
Children might feel bad about themselves when they realize you are sad because of them. So show empathy instead, tell them you understand their feeling and encourage them.
5. Help them find a support group preferably offline
There are many non-governmental organizations that focus on people living with sickle cell. Organizations like that can help your child feel less lonely and become more confident.
And as a parent, they will educate you more and provide whatever support you need for the child.
There are also online support groups that can help you and your child. Don’t hesitate to get involved.
6. Understand that they have feelings too
Our Nigerian mothers drop a comment in the comment section let’s know you. Stop forcing your child to do things.
They have feelings too and you should respect that. Don’t force them to walk when they are tired, don’t force them to play when they don’t want to. Sickle cell has different complications that are different from having pain.
Sometimes it might be fatigue or they just want to be alone. Let them have their ways.
7. Always be there for them
Be a listening parent. Children want to talk but sometimes parents are not willing to listen so they rather keep quiet and deal with it in their head.
Always show up when for your child, be there when they are in pain and when they are not. Show them love and help them love themselves.
8. Don’t compare
Parents are fond of telling their children to use another child as an example, you should not compare your child with another not even their siblings.
Every child has their own ways of doing things and their own strength and when you observe as a parent you will find that strength.
Avoid comparing whether with their siblings or with a stranger or friend.
9. Motivate them by living
Being a parent isn’t an easy job whether you have a child that lives with sickle cell or not. Your life becomes motivation for someone else and you begin to watch the things you do, the things you say and even the people you allow into your circle.
A parent with a child with sickle cell might end up forgetting that they are human and have their live to life because their child is always the first.
It is not a bad thing to devote your life to taking care of your child especially one that needs loads of care.
But have you thought about living your life as a tool of motivation for your child?
Some things you can do for yourself to motivate your child to grow well
- Take care of yourself so that they can learn how to do the same for themselves.
- Eat fruits and vegetables
- Engage in exercises
- Practice meditation
- Become an advocate yourself
- Have a passion or dream and pursue it relentlessly
- Read books and consume information in any form
SOME SICKLE CELL RELATED BOOKS THAT MIGHT HELP YOU AS A PARENT
Parenting is not an easy job but when your child lives with a chronic illness like sickle cell then your job just got to another level of not easy.
Sickle cell can be a major challenge for your child, the complications, the pain, the stigma, a child needs proper tools to be to survive these things.
These tools should be gotten from the child’s parents because they are child’s first teachers.
But as a parent, you can only have these tools when you keep learning. You don’t have to be discouraged. You only need to equip yourself with enough information.
Your child living with sickle cell can grow to become healthy adult both physically and mentally. And I hope that these nine ways stated above will help you groom your child into a sickle strong adult who would make sickle cell look beautiful.