Research suggests that nearly 20% of children birth to 17 years of age in the United States have special health care needs (1). In Illinois, approximately 30% of children had a health condition that impacted their daily functioning (1). Regardless of whether they are acute or chronic, pediatric medical illnesses have a psychological component that can affect children, caregivers, or both.
Children and families who experience chronic illness or a traumatic medical event may feel sad, depressed or anxious. Children can feel isolated and overwhelmed. They may experience a sense of loss from the inability to participate in activities with their peers. These feelings are common and can be assessed in the primary care office. Having conversations with children about their feelings and encouraging them to discuss their experiences with family or another trusted adult can assist with management of emotions and development of coping skills.
Recognizing that a child’s chronic illness or traumatic medical event can impact the parent or caregivers’ stress level is also important. Research has shown that parents of children with chronic conditions experienced higher levels of stress in both general parenting and stress specifically related to their child’s medical illness (2). They too need providers to acknowledge their distress and make interventions. Both the distress shared and coping strategies used by children and their families can be challenging to deal with in the primary health care setting where time is limited and providers are overextended. The following resource can help.
The Center for Pediatric Traumatic Stress at the Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania has developed tools for clinicians and families dealing with medical traumatic stress and can be located on their website. Given the complicated and ongoing nature of pediatric traumatic medical stress, Illinois DocAssist can support providers through consultation. Stay tuned for an Illinois DocAssist webinar that will provide clinicians with training on screening and interventions for children and families experiencing pediatric medical traumatic stress.
2016 National Survey of Children’s Health http://www.childhealthdata.org
Pinquart, Martin. Parenting stress in caregivers of children with chronic physical condition- A meta-analysis. Stress and Health. 2018; 34:197-2017.
Sign up for our monthly e-newsletter to receive more useful information like this. https://docassistillinois.org/about/newsletter-signup-form/