You’ve been there and so you understand what other parents of chronically ill children are going through – the worry and fear and difficulties of everyday life. You may also be in a unique position to help. Maybe you’ve even been on the receiving end of help, yourself? If so, here are three ways to pay it forward to parents who are in the trenches of their child’s chronic illness:

1. Help With Care

It’s a unique person who can spend an evening with an ill child while parents go out to a movie. But if you’ve been there, you may know enough about a child’s condition to be the special babysitter a family needs. Even if it’s just a run to the grocery store, parents of ill children may struggle to find anyone who can provide a couple minutes of care. You know how valuable these minutes can be! And now you have a chance to provide them for a parent in need.

2. Be There

How much will you tell your friends? How much can your extended family bear to hear? The story of a child’s chronic illness is a burden that some parents have nowhere to share. How could anyone possibly understand? The fact is that you can understand. And as such you have the special opportunity to accept some of this burden from the parent of a chronically ill child. Just by listening, you can lessen their load.

3. Enjoy Life

Sometimes when you’re involved with your ill child’s care, you can look up to find that months or even years have passed without you noticing. You put one foot in front of the next, repeat as necessary. However, though you can’t always see it, there’s more to life than that. Even parents of chronically ill kids remain people with hopes and dreams, likes and dislikes. You have the opportunity to help a parent who perhaps hasn’t looked past his or her child’s illness in many months, take a step outside the system of struggle to have some fun. You should plan it. You should pay for it. You should work with this parent to ensure the ill child has care. (You don’t want fun to add stress to an already stressful situation!) But then consider leaving illness behind for a few hours while the parent focuses on him- or herself in a way that on most days is impossible.

Sheri Brisson
Sheri Sobrato Brisson is a brain tumor survivor who discovered the importance of self-reflection during her recovery. From her personal illness experience and a dozen years supporting families and children with serious illness, her life’s philanthropic mission is to empower families and children facing serious illness. She has started and facilitated support groups for children with illness and their families for over twenty years with organizations such as the American Cancer Society, National Brain Tumor Foundation, Ronald McDonald House, and Packard Children’s Hospital. She has served as Board Member for many children’s health nonprofit organizations including American Cancer Society San Jose, UCSF/Mt. Zion Auxiliary, Creighton Health Institute, and Okizu Foundation. Brisson received her master’s degree in counseling from Santa Clara University and her undergraduate degree in human biology from Stanford University.
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