Mum Mari is worried about how her sons are reacting to her daughter’s heart operations. Do you have any advice or support for this week’s A Problem Shared…?
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I’ve been reading the Heart Mammi stories and my family is going through the same thing. My youngest has a heart defect and we’re in and out of hospital all the time. She’s getting great care and lots of support, but I’m worried about my two boys (6 and 10).
My eldest has become really quiet, like he’s gone into his shell. Aled on the other hand, has started acting up. He’s throwing tantrums and shouting the house down. I know it’s all connected. But it’s hard. I don’t think we give them enough of our time and attention, but with all of Bethan’s operations, she takes up almost all of our energy. My parents help out when they can but do you have any advice of what we can do?
Our FamilyPoint reply to Mari
Hi Mari, thanks for getting in touch with us at FamilyPoint about your concerns for your sons.
Parenting isn’t easy at the best of times. Yet when you have a child with health concerns it can put a huge pressure on the whole family.
You are in a very difficult position. It is understandable that your priority has to be doing whatever you need to do to meet your daughter’s health needs. However, you obviously cannot ignore the effect it might be having on your sons. Perhaps you could try sitting down with them, either individually or as a family group, and discussing the situation with them. They may be feeling left out but they may also be acting out because they are concerned or scared for their sister.
Let them know that it’s OK to feel jealous, angry, scared or sad
If you haven’t done so already it might be helpful to explain, in an age appropriate way, some details about your daughters condition and why she needs extra help. Children can understand more than you realise as long as it is presented in the right way. They might not have noticed a change in their behaviour. They might not realise that it is linked to how they feel about the time and attention you have to give to your daughter. Give them the opportunity to tell you how they feel. Let them know that it’s OK to feel jealous, angry, scared or sad. If this is a positive experience it might be something you can repeat often to discuss any issues and ensure everyone’s feeling are out in the open.
If you feel they need someone else to talk to, they might be interested in contacting the Meic helpline. The Meic helpline is for children and young people in Wales up to 25. They can contact them for information, advice and advocacy by phone, text and IM. Sometimes it helps to discuss things with people who aren’t emotionally involved. Take a look at their website.
Support and make time for them
I think it is important to try and make time when you and/or your husband have special time with your boys. Try and set aside 10 minutes per day for each boy where they get one-to-one time. This can be something like a bed time story or playing a short game. Set aside a day or a few hours once a month or so when they have a treat or time away from home where they are the centre of attention. This might take some planning but they could help with this. Try to stick to it unless, of course, your daughter is in hospital or unwell.
There are a number of online support groups and Facebook pages for parents of children with heart conditions, depending on your daughter’s diagnosis and where you live. I’m sure your daughter’s medical team would be able to point you in the right direction. You can also contact us via the FamilyPoint Cymru helpline and we can help you find something suitable. You won’t be the only parents in this situation. Talking to others going through the same thing might really help. They might have other ideas on how to offer support to siblings.
Don’t be too hard on yourself
Lastly, try not to be too hard on yourself about this. You are in a very difficult situation and you are doing the best you can. Noticing there is a problem is the first step in addressing it and changing things for the better for you all.
If you would like further information on national or local support services, then you can contact us at FamilyPoint Cymru via phone 0300 222 57 57, text 07860 052 905, or IM/Chat. We are open Monday – Thursday 6pm – 10pm and Friday & Saturday 10am – 2pm.
The FamilyPoint Cymru Team
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