Taking care of yourself
You may be so busy taking care of your sick child and your family that you put your own needs last. You may feel that it would be selfish to take care of yourself when your child is sick. Taking care of yourself is NOT selfish.
On an airplane, in an emergency, adults must put on their own oxygen masks first, in order to be able to help children with theirs. In the same way, you need to take care of yourself in order to be able to best take care of your child. You need and deserve care too.
Here is a list of activities that might help you take care of different needs, like:
- Physical: sleep, eat well, go for a walk or hike, do yoga or try stretching, play a sport, get a massage.
- Emotional: write, create art or music, talk with someone you trust, watch a movie that you can cry through, sing or scream along with loud music.
- Personal: do something you enjoy, go to a sports event, get your hair cut, work on a hobby, try a new activity.
- Social: ask for and accept help, spend time with your family, spend time with a supportive friend, play a team sport.
- Spiritual: spend time alone, in nature, or with a pet, meditate or do yoga, talk with a spiritual advisor.
- Physical space: organize or decorate your home or hospital room to make it more comfortable, get a change of scenery.
Another important way to take care of yourself when there is so much stress, is to avoid any extra stress when you can. You might:
- Say “no” to extra tasks at work, at home, at your child’s school, etc., and instead ask if there is someone else who could do that task.
- Say “yes” to help at home, to someone picking up groceries or cooking a meal, helping with other children or family members, or helping to care for your sick child.
It can be very hard at first to say “no”, to accept help, and to make time for yourself. But these ways of managing stress are worth it and will get easier with practice. Often, family and friends want to help, but they don’t know how or what to do. Providing concrete suggestions can be exactly what they (and you) are looking for.
It can help to find someone to connect with who understands what you’re going through. This might be a member of your healthcare team, a counsellor or therapist, a friend, or another parent who shares your experiences. Here are some examples:
- Support groups: People meet with others who have something in common to share feelings and stories. Groups may be led by a professional or by a trained peer mentor.
- Counsellors or therapists: Some people want to talk privately with a professional whose feelings don’t need to be protected, who can share strategies that have helped other parents, and who can offer support.
- Family or close friends: Some people feel most comfortable talking with someone they already know, and who knows about their family’s experiences.
- Online forums and groups: These are places where you can connect with others at your pace, in your own time, and from your own home or office. Some are led by a trained moderator, while others are not.
The kind of support that is right for you may not be the right kind for others in your family. The kind of support you need will likely change over time. Remember that you can try something once or twice and if you don’t feel comfortable, try something, or someone, else.
Respite care is a community health service that provides short-term breaks from caring for your child. Respite services give you a chance to have time to yourself or to have time to spend with your other children or family members. They may also offer the child who is ill a chance to meet with other children or become involved in the community.
In some places, respite workers will come to your home. In other places, respite programs are offered in hospices or other community health organizations. Talk to your healthcare team about services in your area.
- National and provincial programs and services - Canadian Virtual Hospice