Does your child have IBS, cyclic vomiting, chronic constipation, or some other digestive problem for which doctors cannot offer a clear explanation or cure? As a psychologist specializing in the treatment of IBS, I know that a child’s IBS diagnosis can be scary and overwhelming. I hope that this blog (and the series it’s a part of) can help you with feelings of fear and overwhelm related to your child’s IBS diagnosis.
COPING WITH YOUR CHILD’S IBS DIAGNOSIS
I know about healing from IBS from the inside out because I had IBS when I was a teenager. I had to figure out all on my own how to heal my body. If you’re a parent dealing with a child’s IBS diagnosis, I’d like to save you time, effort, energy, and money by giving you some input on what you can do to help your child.
First, it’s important to acknowledge that we are affected by the people in our lives – it is our human nature to be! To be emotionally available enough to your child that you suffer to some degree when they do is normal. That is empathy, and there’s nothing wrong with empathy.
That said, it is very difficult to watch your child go through pain and suffering, particularly when you feel powerless to stop it, as many parents do in the case of an IBS diagnosis. It is anxiety-producing when your child reaches out to you and others for help and is still unable to find anything that will stop their symptoms. It is scary not to know when the IBS symptoms will end, or even if they will end. If you are experiencing these fears and anxieties as the parent of a child with IBS, know that what you are feeling is perfectly normal.
It’s natural for parents, as a result of these anxious feelings caused by a child’s IBS diagnosis, to go into fix-it mode. You may start thinking, “I have to fix this,” “I have to change this,” “I have to reach out and get help!” It’s normal to want to jump into action to help your child! But those who have been dealing with a child’s IBS diagnosis for quite a while now may tell you that answers found in this manner are scarce. If you’re not finding any solutions through your “fix-it” attempts, then it might be better for you (and your child) to direct your efforts towards calm.
FINDING CALM IN THE FACE OF AN IBS DIAGNOSIS
Easier said than done, right? As a parent, you are likely one of the few people who knows exactly your child is going through, the reality of it, the awfulness of it. When you feel frustrated, fearful, anxious, or tense, that is your body having a stress response. And the more stressed you are, the more your child’s body is likely to suffer, because your child is looking to you for guidance on how to react to their difficult situation. As much as you want to help your child, you also need to help yourself because you are your child’s support system.
That’s why one of the best ways you can help your child is by attending to your own needs. If you were on an airplane and everyone needed to put on an oxygen mask, you would put on your own mask first. This makes you better able to then help your child put on their oxygen mask. It’s important to ask yourself how your child’s experience of having a digestive problem is affecting you. This is not self-centered behavior. This is self-care. If the answer is that you’re experiencing a great deal of anxiety and stress, then think about what you can do to reduce those symptoms for yourself.
The best thing you can do is to help your own body to find ease. Strive and work toward being a calm, collected, emotionally present parent for your child. Model for your child the kind of self-care you’d like to see from them (which is the kind you deserve to have yourself!). If you feel emotional, let yourself have a good cry with your life partner or your best friend. After you feel the ease that comes after you have a good cry on someone’s shoulder, you will be more present for your child.
Being fully present—physically, mentally, and emotionally present—is one of the most helpful things you can do for your child, and you can’t do it if you are not attending to your own needs.
To learn more, visit the Don’t Hate Your Guts website where you can sign up to have weekly blog posts and the video of the week sent straight to your inbox. You’ll also receive updates about the exciting webinar series I’m about to launch. Watch this week’s video just below.
Healing is a process. You know the destination. I’ve got the roadmap.
Don’t hate your guts. Instead, discover how to heal your body.