We talked about Why Does My Child Act Like a Hypochondriac recently….now we want to answer the question, What to Do When Your Child Acts Like a Hypochondriac. Whether you can find the underlying reason for your child's obsession with their health or not…you still need to know how to deal with their fear and anxiety!
What to Do When Your Child Acts Like a Hypochondriac
Help Your Child Understand Illness
Depending on the age of your child you may need to help them understand how illness works. I would say that children from mid-elementary school on can begin to understand illness if you break it down for them. We talk a LOT about germs…especially at school! How much emphasis do we put on how well our bodies deal with germs on their own?
If your child understands that our body has built-in defenses to fight many germs…and that when we do get sick with a virus it can actually help build up our immune system! Kids Health is a website that has information geared toward kids to help explain all this technical stuff! It is a great resource that you can use to educate your child about their own body!
Understand that Hypochondria is Typically Harmless
I am the first one to admit how annoying my child's health fears can be….but we need to realize as parents that although annoying…it is fairly harmless. Overacting about your child's hypochondriacal tendencies will only make things worse!
Listen to Your Child Calmly
Children want to be heard just like adults! If your child feels like you aren't listening to their complaints it will only make them obsess about the issues more. Calmly let your child tell you what they are feeling or what they are worried about. Listening to your child does not mean you are agreeing with them or acknowledging that they actually have a legitimate health concern. Listening will show your child that you love them and are there for them.
Take Your Child to the Doctor for Annual Physical
Having your child seen by the doctor every year for a physical or well-child check up is very important for kids who have serious health fears. Your doctor will be able to examine your child and reassure them of their good health. This is something you will be able to point out to your child later when they are anxious about their health…remind them that they had a clean bill of health not long ago! I would also be sure to let your doctor know that your child has anxiety in this area and get any tips they may have for you in dealing with this!
Remember the Brain is Powerful
Don't forget how powerful the brain can be and how persuasive! The brain is so powerful that it can actually convince itself of an illness even when no illness is present. When you are dealing with your child and the child is convinced that they are sick…they really do believe that they are sick. Be patient and loving with your child even when reassurance and reason do not work!
Rule Out Real Health Issues
Although I try not to run my daughter to the doctor every time she complains…or we would be there every week…sometimes I do take her in just to be on the safe side. The problem that arises when your child complains constantly of ailments is that you could miss when a real issue has come up!
I mentioned in my first post that my daughter has lots of “injuries” and is always wanting to wear a sling or brace. She regularly insists she needs to be x-rayed for a broken bone. As a nurse…I rarely feel that these minor injuries are anything to worry about…but last year after she complained for a week about her pinky finger hurting…I finally gave in and took her to the doctor and sure enough…it had a hairline fracture!
Sometimes we need to rule on the side of caution because as parents we would feel terrible if we missed something serious because we dismiss every compliant our child has!
Seek Professional Help
You know your child better than anyone else. If this focus on illness has become so huge in your child's life that you are concerned…please get some professional help! There are treatments available for hypochondria and anxiety. I would recommend starting with your pediatrician and they can recommend a course of treatment!
I hope these ideas will help you answer the question of what to do when your child acts like a hypochondriac! I know from personal and professional experience how frustrating this can be for families! Hang in there…I would love to hear your story and offer you encouragement!! 🙂
Please note: I am not a physician and am not offering medical advice. I am only giving my opinion and my thoughts on a topic according to my experience.