Last time we talked about how to use choices and questions to help children learn responsibility at as early an age as possible. This week, we talk about an important part of asking questions and giving choices: making sure a child has enough information to make good choices.
If a child does not understand the possible results and consequences of bad decisions, how can they make good ones? This is why it is so important to teach your children early on about their medical conditions and to be honest about the consequences of non-adherence. Early education is critical. Children need to learn the facts and details about their medical conditions, including care requirements.
Many parents have a really hard time with this because of their own fears and emotions. I remember one dad saying, “I refuse to use the loss of a limb or eyesight or death as a threat to make my (ten-year-old) daughter take care of her diabetes. I don’t want to scare her and ruin her childhood by telling her about these issues.”
And, while I understand where he is coming from, this is not a wise decision in the long run. How can his daughter take her diabetes seriously if she doesn’t know how serious it is? We certainly don’t use these issues as a threat, but we do need to make sure our children are educated. And there is a big difference. But parents can understandably get this mixed up.
So, like this dad, we struggle with communication and, oftentimes, just don’t bring it up. But then our kids learn about these things from other sources like thoughtless peers or the internet. Or, they just don’t make good choices about their bodies.
To help avoid these problems, start teaching your child about his or her medical condition at a young age with resources that are developmentally appropriate. There are many good books, including ones for young children that address most special healthcare needs.
For cystic fibrosis, Cadberry’s Letters and Taking Cystic Fibrosis to School are among my favorites. The website www.Jayjo.com has published The Special Kids in School series, which includes most special needs and chronic illnesses. Your doctor may have good resources, too.
Honesty is important. In order for children to make good choices about their bodies, they need to know the truth about the potential consequences for bad ones. This will bring us to our article for next week: Learning good communication skills for discussing difficult issues.