Words can’t express what goes through the mind of a parent when you find out your child has a life-threatening disease. Suddenly, the dreams you had of your precious child having a normal childhood filled with unlimited possibilities are replaced with questions like… “How could this happen to us?”
“Will she be able to do things that other kids do?”
“Will he spend most of his life in the hospital?”
“What if he looks different to other people?”
“Am I to blame for this?”
“How on earth are we going to give him a normal life?”
All of these thoughts consume your mind at first. Now, I must share with you that I am not a parent. These are all thoughts that my mother shared with me when I asked her what it was like to hear that I was born with Cystic Fibrosis. I can’t imagine what it must feel like to have your world shaken like that, but I do know what it’s like to be the child. I am the result of parents who chose to rise above their fears of a diagnosis and raise their daughter in a world without limits.
Before I share these tips that my parents did to shape my adult life, I must tell you this: you’re not to blame for your child’s health. It’s not your fault and you’re not being punished. You have been given an incredible gift – the chance to instill hope, faith, and the foundation of a life without limits to the precious little person that you love so much! So, are you ready to learn some ways that you can be an encouragement to your child? If so, grab a pen and paper because we’re going to cover lots of quick tips that you’ll want to write down and start implementing!
1. Choose Strength and Courage in the Face of Bad News
Let’s face it. When we’re given a diagnosis of CF or other life-threatening diseases that our precious children have, our world gets rocked. Instead of living a life of doom and gloom, choose to have strength and courage so you can overcome it as a family.
When they could’ve given up, my parents made the decision to be strong and courageous, and to find a way to make it work. Was it easy? No, not at all! There was a learning curve as they rearranged their lives to fit in daily treatments and doses of medication. Yes, there were even moments of fear and sadness, but their decision to stay strong and focused on positive results gave them the ability to smile again! Guess what else? It taught me, as their child, to be strong and courageous in the face of bad news too.
2. Give Unconditional Love
Children need to know that we love them unconditionally. There was never any doubt in my mind that I was loved as a child, nor is there any doubt now. My parents loved me unconditionally and they told me this often. Their unconditional love instilled in me the security that no matter how much money I cost them just to stay healthy and alive, they would always be there loving me. Our children need to know that they are loved in sickness and in health!
3. Teach Responsibility
I started mixing my own medications for nebulizers when I was in fourth grade. My parents taught me how to be responsible with my health and they trusted me to not only mix my own meds correctly, but to also remember when to take them. When we’d go on vacation, it was my responsibility to pack my meds correctly. Why did they do this? It wasn’t because they were tired of doing it. No, it was because they knew that in the future, as an adult, it would be up to me to keep tabs on my health. They knew that in order to live a normal adult life, I’d need to be responsible.
Here’s the key. My parents were told that I would never become an adult. Guess what…that didn’t matter to them. They made the decision to raise me as though I had a long, healthy life ahead of me and in that life they knew I’d need to be responsible for myself. We must instill responsibility in our children no matter what the statistics say their life expectancy could be. If you begin to treat them like they have unlimited possibilities in their futures, you’ll be amazed at what their future will hold.
4. Encourage Them To Go For Their Dreams
What does your child like to do? I’m sure there’s something that they talk about being when they grow up. Pay close attention to that and feed it!
I wanted to become a singer since the time I could talk. This wasn’t a secret – I told everyone. My parents never tried to talk me out of that dream. In fact, they encouraged me to sing where ever and whenever I could. They even helped me record my first CD, they believed in me that much!
We need to encourage the dreams that our children have, especially if they are overcoming sickness. Those dreams might be the only thing that keeps their hope alive – we shouldn’t dare think of crushing those dreams! No medical condition should ever be an excuse not to go after our dreams!
5. Create a Foundation of Structure
One of the most important lessons we can learn as children is structure. If a child learns structure at an early age, then she will remember and utilize it when the time comes to be responsible herself.
My parents were very structured when I was growing up. Every morning treatment and every evening treatment was at the same time and doctor appointments were always the third Tuesday of every month. The structure that they taught me carried over to my adult life and even to this day if I start something new that has no structure already set up, I go the extra mile to design a structure that works for me. Structure is important!
6. Laugh Every Day
Don’t you just love a good belly laugh? You know, the kind that makes your stomach hurt and possibly even causes tears to roll down your cheeks? I had lots of laughter growing up. In fact, one of my nicknames in high school was “Giggles.” Even when there were uncertainties with my health, my parents found a way to make me laugh. My favorite memories of our family vacations always involve laughter, and some sort of silly song that my dad and I made up. Laughter is important. Kids love to laugh so encourage more laughter!
7. Share the Truth
Whenever there’s a disease to overcome, there will always be scary facts that come with it. In my experience as a child overcoming disease, it was always best to know what I was up against. It helped me form my own strategy as to how I was going to beat it, and it kept me responsible with my health. We shouldn’t try to scare children about their disease, but a healthy knowledge regarding their disease is going to shape them into stronger adults. Always share the truth!
8. Be Honest and Upfront With Others
I’ve met a lot of people who have hidden the fact that they were born with CF from their friends or co-workers. I don’t recommend this. Here’s why – by being honest with your friends and co-workers about the fact that you have a disease, you give them a chance to see your strength. You become more real to them. In many cases, you also allow them to be your advocates.
My parents never hid my health from anyone – my teachers, my friends, everyone I knew was always aware of what I was born with. Yes, sometimes I was treated differently at first, but because my parents set the foundation and treated me normal, other people soon fell in line too. That’s not to say that there weren’t some challenges with some people – you can’t avoid that. But telling the truth and being open with people is always best – for everyone involved.
9. Provide the Best Life Possible
My parents did everything they could to give me the best life possible. They worked hard and always made sure I had the best health insurance available. They always did their best to give me a full life. Sometimes I marvel at the sacrifices they made, and I must admit that I’m a bit choked up as I write this because my parents provided such an amazing childhood for me. They could’ve lived a life full of excuses and succumbed to poverty because of the enormous medical bills and the sometimes overwhelming medical statistics. Instead, they chose to never give up and never give in.
Providing for your child who may be overcoming a disease doesn’t mean you have to be rich. It means you make the decision to do everything possible to give them the best life and the best future you can.
10. Live a Life of Faith
That great success book, the Bible, says that faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. We exercise faith everyday whether we believe in God or not. We have faith that the sun will rise tomorrow and the proof is that we have plans for tomorrow. Some people take faith a step further and have so much faith that they believe better health is on the way. My parents instilled that type of faith in me. They taught me to believe in God and to put my faith into action. Of all the tips I’ve shared today, I’m the most thankful for this one. I’ve become a woman of bondage breaking faith and I’ve overcome the death sentence of Cystic Fibrosis because my parents instilled it in me when I was a child. I promise you, if you instill the tool of faith into your children, they will utilize it when they’re adults.
We don’t have to accept the negative words that come with disease. We can help our children overcome this! My suggestion for you is to utilize these tips every day and to speak them over your child. There’s an adult inside of your child that is waiting to overcome the disease that ails her right now. With these tools, it can become a reality!
About Mandy B. Anderson
Mandy B. Anderson is an inspirational speaker, singer, writer and independent Juice Plus+ wellness coordinator. Born with cystic fibrosis, Mandy’s journey of overcoming a life-threatening disease encourages and equips people to rise up and conquer their own barriers in life. She is passionate about helping people overcome their obstacles! Download her free e-book “True Wholeness: Lessons Learned On My Journey From Cystic Fibrosis to Total Health” at http://www.mandybanderson.com