Her words were a 2x4 hitting me over the head. I realized then that she thought that her illness was an inconvenience to me, like another problem I encountered in my day. I truly and carefully reviewed everything I had said, my non-verbal language, and my actions. I needed to understand how she received this message from me. Here is what I came up with and how I could have approached her illness differently:
I realized that when I approached her, I looked worried or concerned. By smiling at her, I could have eased the tension and created at attitude of wellness instead of sickness.
2. Choose words carefully.
I always asked her how she was feeling even though I knew she ached and had a fever. I could have said things like: "You look good." "You are doing better." "You look brighter each time I see you." When I was sick as a child, my mother always asked me, "What's wrong?" How would your child respond if you asked, "What's good?" "What's right?" "What's better?"
3. Touch and cuddling.
Because I had so much to do—housework, client plans, dinner, I let her sit alone in front of the television for entertainment. How much faster would she have healed if I held her and watched television with her? Wouldn't she have enjoyed a story as she sat on my lap? Children feel safer when we touch, bond, and hold them when their world seems dreary. Touch and bonding strengthen the immune system, literally.
4. Quiet time activities.
What my daughter did enjoy with me when she was sick was our time spent in quiet activities. We drew pictures, colored designs, played card games, and watched the birds at the feeder through her window. These are the times that she still remembers when we speak of childhood memories.
5. Envision health.
Another quiet activity that we enjoyed was closing our eyes and pretending that our eyes had x-ray vision like Superman. My daughter would scan her body with her x-ray vision and tell me what parts felt better, what the tummy would like to eat, and how she was improving. Mindbody science now advocates the use of healing imagery for persons with cancer and immune system disorders.
I didn't take the time hear what might be causing her distress. Stress weakens the immune system, and stressors in our children's lives often go unnoticed until they erupt into tummy aches, headaches, an accident, and more. I could have asked, "Tell me about school?" "Tell me about your friends?" "What seems hard in your life right now?" As parents, we don't have to fix it or make it better. Listening is enough!