Written by Doctor G

Mom’s Chronic Illness; Daughter’s Embarrassment

I was recently diagnosed with a chronic yet manageable disease. It’s well controlled, I feel great and usually show no outward sign of being “sick”. Other than a slightly altered routine for me, little has changed in our day-to-day life. I’m not so sure my nine-year-old daughter would agree. The good news is that she articulates beautifully (victory!!) her curiosity, fear, love and support. I do my best to candidly address her concerns and express my appreciation for her (unsolicited) help. What I don’t know how to tackle however, is her embarrassment. I’ve half-heartedly tried the no-big-deal and nothing-to-hide approaches. I’ve reminded her that she has friends with (sadly) the same problem. For them it’s cool, for me not so much. I get it! Do I help her find peace or just wait it out? Soon enough she’ll find other reasons to be embarrassed by me.

AMM, in Steelers Country

Embarrassing our children is just one of the privileges of parenting! The others are eating some of whatever they have and living with people who have to do what we say. Anyway…

Embarrassment comes from the developmentally normal but completely inaccurate belief that the world revolves around you. Toddlers believe the same thing but they aren’t embarrassed by anything because they don’t have a desire yet to be like others. Also, to toddlers, any attention is good. To most tweens, they desperately want to be exactly like their peers, and most attention is bad.

AMM, how have you tried to handle her embarrassment in the past? Not about this issue, but other times that she felt noticed and uncomfortable?

You can try to challenge her belief, but you’re going to have to be sneaky. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Empathize. It sounds like you are already great at this. Listening to our kids’ feelings without trying to fix them builds respect and resilience.

2. Ask. What have her friends said or done that have made her feel embarrassed? Does she have any clear evidence that your illness or limitations is actually affecting how anyone thinks or feels about her?

3. Offer. Is there anything you can do that will make this a little easier on her? Would answering her friends’ questions yourself help? Would she prefer your family use a code phrase to talk about how you’re feeling if someone else is around? What other solutions does she have?

4. Wait. Because you are absolutely right, AAM, that this too shall change.

You may have some sadness or guilt (in addition to not liking this chronic condition) that your daughter has to “go through this” with you. I would ask you to set any guilt you have completely aside. Illness is an important part of life and this will teach her that you and she can handle tough situations and thrive. That is much better for your daughter then never confronting such a situation in the first place.
I hope you feel as well as possible!

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