I suffered a severe concussion this past January and was told my recovery could take over a year. It has been almost 9 months and I am just beginning to be able to stay awake more than 18 hours a day. [Ed note: 18 is what the LW wrote, but I'm assuming that's a typo and she meant 8.]
My concern is that my 6 year-old-son is having an extremely difficult time with this. I am grateful that he is verbalizing some anger and frustration, which I encourage him to do. He alternates between worrying I will never get better, to being angry that I can't attend his soccer games. Other than reassuring him that I am still his same mmom and will always love him, what can I do to assist him?
From: IM4Quality, Waltham, MA
Start by reflecting back to him what he's saying and feeling: "I wonder....you're thinking that mom is never getting better. That mom will never be able to go to your soccer games....." Leave some space after you say that. Because even when you tell him you will be alright, or that you're feeling better, what he sees -- his reality -- is that you still aren't going to his soccer game. You still aren't the mom you used to be. So your reassurances present him with a discrepancy between what he sees and what you say.
Strive to answer him truthfully at a level he can understand. When children don't have information they need to make sense of what's happening, they make up stories. And then repeat, repeat, repeat. "It seems like it's taking a long time, but I will get better. When I'm all better, I'll be able to go to soccer games." Or: "I still can't go to soccer games, but I'm really good at listening to you read." This is a great time to find ways to do something new together: board games, crafts, etc., that you can do side by side. Other times tell him, "I know you want to play with me right now, and I'd like to play with you. But right now I'm feeling tired and I need to rest." You can also tell him: "I'm getting better inside my body, but it's hard to see that."
Whenever a parent is sick, it's scary and threatening; when a parent is sick for an extended period of months, it's not unusual for a child to become depressed, to act out or to regress. It helps for both parents, and all caregivers, to be on the same page with what information you give him. Lack of consistency will make him distrustful and more frightened.
Lastly, give your son some concrete ways to be helpful to you, from bringing in the mail to drawing you a picture of what he did at school.
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