Psychological Effects of Eosinophilic Disorders
Many parents have questions about the psychological effects that an eosinophilic disorder can have on their child. Here are answers, provided by the experts at the Cincinnati Center for Eosinophilic Disorders at Cincinnati Children’s, to some frequently asked questions.
Eating in front of our child
Some families choose not to eat in front of their child because they feel doing so will increase discomfort or frustration. However, doing so may actually increase anxiety, contributing to the child feeling even more different from peers. It is often best to maintain normal mealtime routines with your family. Most children are highly adaptable to new situations. Although eating in front of your child may temporarily increase frustration level, this should subside as he or she adjusts to the new situation. By allowing your child the opportunity to gain practice with refraining from food while others are eating, your child will learn to increase confidence and comfort level as he or she faces social situations where others inevitably eat (e.g., school lunch; parties).
Tempter tantrums at mealtime
Children need time to adjust to a restricted or elemental diet. When maintaining normal mealtime routines, children, particularly young children, often act out in an attempt to express frustration or persuade parents to allow them to consume the foods they desire. Many parents find that problem behaviors will decrease when tantrums or other negative behaviors are ignored and positive mealtime behaviors such as sitting in a chair, helping to prepare or serve the meal, and staying calm are praised and rewarded. To increase a child’s motivation to cooperate, a behavioral reward chart can be made and children can be rewarded with stickers or special time with their parents after meeting mealtime goals.
Disciplining your child
Many parents feel uncomfortable disciplining their child who is medically compromised. However, it is best to continue disciplinary strategies that are effective in decreasing problem behaviors. Children often thrive on structure, predictability, and routine, particularly when they are struggling with the uncertainty inherent in coping with a chronic illness. Children often demonstrate positive adjustment when their environment and family has stayed consistent with life prior to diagnosis. Without discipline, problem behaviors will only increase. An effective way to discipline is to ignore problem behaviors as much as possible and use positive reinforcement, praise, and incentives when the child engages in desired behaviors.
How to handle peer teasing
Be supportive of your child’s feelings. Continue to offer your child praise for his or her special and unique qualities. Explain that many children have misconceptions regarding medical problems. Encourage your child to be involved with children from a number of different environments. You may wish to work with school staff to educate children about your child’s diagnosis. An outgoing, friendly peer could be paired with your child to increase social networks and comfort level around peers.
How to detect depression
Some children have difficulty coping and adjusting to life with a chronic medical condition. Signs of depression in children and teens include: loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities, feelings of sadness or hopelessness, negative self-comments, withdrawing from friends or family, changes in sleeping patterns or appetite, thoughts of dying or wishing they were never born, school refusal, and lack of energy. Talk to your child in a supportive, non-threatening way if you suspect that your child has signs of depression. It is helpful to discuss your concerns with your child’s pediatrician, psychologist or other mental health professional who can assist with evaluation and treatment.
How to manage my child’s pain
There are many behavioral strategies that can be helpful in decreasing pain level. Helping your child develop relaxation skills is important in managing pain. Children can use visualization to imagine a peaceful place, such as a family vacation or trip to the beach. Additional strategies include progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, and biofeedback. The Division of Psychology at Cincinnati Children’s provides biofeedback services and assists in the development of effective relaxation strategies.
Coping with a chronic illness
Coping with medical problems varies from child to child. There is often an “adjustment period” when children feel different from others and frustrated with changes in lifestyle. Discuss these issues with your child and normalize thoughts and feelings. Encourage your child to continue with hobbies and interests and use coping strategies when feeling down. If you feel your child is having problems with adjustment it may be helpful to contact your child’s pediatrician, a psychologist or other mental health professional to assist with the development of coping strategies.
Refusing to attend school
My child is refusing to attend school
Chronic school refusal is typically a sign of a more significant psychological problem such as anxiety, depression, or difficulty with coping and adjustment. Many children with chronic medical conditions feel different from their peers and are unable to enjoy many of the activities offered at school (e.g., recess, lunch, after-school activities). In addition, children who have missed school due to medical appointments or hospitalizations fall behind academically compared to their peers. This may decrease a child’s self-esteem and ability to cope with having a chronic illness.