Raising a child with unique needs is difficult. On the one hand, you want them to live as normal a life as possible. On the other hand, you also know that your primary job is to keep them safe. How do you balance both of those responsibilities while raising an immunocompromised child?
Admittedly, it can be a difficult balance to strike— particularly in a post-Covid world where you still might be fighting a battle that is over to most other people.
Despite the challenges, there are ways you can give your child a full life while still protecting their health. In this article, we take a look at how you can establish normalcy for your child without risking their health.
Do: Make Sure that Your Child Understands How to Keep Themself Safe
While you may stay up at night thinking about your child’s health, they are ultimately the one who has the power to maintain it. You should make sure that they understand what that job entails. Understanding hand hygiene is a big step in keeping yourself safe from germs and bacteria.
Establish a hand washing routine that your child can use in social situations to make sure that they are staying safe. Also make sure they understand what their condition is, how to explain it to someone else (like a teacher), and what, if any medications are required to maintain their health.
The idea is to give your child as much autonomy as possible to maintain their health. After all, it is their responsibility in the long run.
Don’t: Frighten Them
Fear tactics can cause your child unnecessary stress and may backfire in the long run. If your child spends most of their life free of illness, they may take that to mean that your gloom and doom predictions are overstated, and therefore begin to let their guard down.
You don’t want that. Instead, give the bare facts, and empower them with knowledge. It will do them more good in the long run.
Do: Let Them Hang Out with Their Friends
Social isolation can be as dangerous for children as illness. Not only does it stunt their social skills but it can also result in feelings of anxiety, depression, and insomnia. You should allow your children to spend time with their friends at school and out in the real world.
While human contact is a primary source of disease transmission, by following simple (and sometimes not so simple) hygienic steps you can make sure your child’s social encounters are as safe as possible.
Don’t: Be Afraid to Have Frank Conversations with Other Parents
Dealing with other parents is its own minefield. The impulse is always to be as polite as possible— if for no other reason than the fact that you might be stuck interacting with these people for years to come. But when it comes to protecting your child’s health, certain things need to be said.
If your child is going to be spending time at a friend’s house, make sure that the parent understands their various health concerns. And, if you don’t feel like the parent in question will be a dependable custodian of your child’s health, don’t let your kid go over there.
It may be uncomfortable at first, but this is a situation where safety is more important than manners.
Do: Model Good Health Behavior
This will probably happen organically as you navigate life with an immunocompromised child. To keep them safe, you will need to wear masks and wash your hands regularly in much the same way that they need to. Nevertheless, even in situations where you can afford to be more lax in your hygiene practices, you should consider staying in solidarity with your child.
This accomplishes several things:
- Ingrains habits: Establishing consistency even when it isn’t strictly necessary will help to further ingrain the habits that are keeping your child safe. It only takes one slip-up to result in a health setback, so continuity is important.
- Reduces risk: Just because your child doesn’t go to the store or to work with you doesn’t mean you aren’t carrying germs back home. Being consistent with your hygiene habits helps to eliminate the risk of incidental infections.
- Sets an example for other adults: If you are having friends or family over, you can establish expectations by modeling good sanitation behavior yourself. Most people will be happy to accommodate your requests, but leading by example is a good way to establish and firm up expectations.
- Reinforces expectations for your child: Finally, good behavior modeling also just reinforces your expectations to your child. It will be easier for them to listen to your rules when they see that you are following them as well.
A little bit of worry isn’t a terrible thing for any parent to have. It keeps you alert to danger and constantly reminds you of the enormous responsibility you took on when you brought a child into the world. At the same time, living in fear doesn’t do anyone any good.
Being immunocompromised is a serious thing— and that has never been more apparent than since Covid took the world hostage for two years. Even the air your child breathes can have a negative impact on their health. That sort of thing is hard to wrap your head around, and even harder to accept.
But your child can’t live a normal life if they are being forced to live in fear. Neither can you, for that matter. Stay alert, be prepared. Follow all the rules that keep your child safe. But also know when to relax. It’s the best thing for your entire family.