From Dr. Jane's Notebook

When Your Child Becomes a Patient

Being a consumer of professional services can be a difficult task. While we may all appreciate and admire the expertise of good professionals (doctors, lawyers, dentists, educational specialists, speech therapists, etc.), these services are not always "fun" on the receiving end. While they are most often aimed at preventing or correcting problems, they are costly in time, money, and sometimes, emotional health.

And if being a consumer of such services were not difficult enough to receive as an adult, it is even more difficult to be the parent of a child who needs these services.

Parents who must enroll their children in various services or programs may experience a number of dilemmas. They may have feelings of ambivalence; caught between "wanting the best for my child" and "hating the fact of needing such services." Neither is it easy to allow someone else to work with our children. This requires trust and confidence in the professional, and unconsciously, we may fight their growing relationship. Finally, depending upon the frequency of the services, we may experience a "crisis of scheduling" when appointments must be made during the work day.

In the face of these personal conflicts, it is not easy to convince your child that the services are actually in his/her best interest. And if pain or personal effort is required of the child, then we must also be convincing about its value in the long-run in order to enlist the child's cooperation.

This process can be most stressful for all concerned. As a guideline for approaching this task, I recommend the following:

However, while it is important to encourage the child to share their feelings with you, it is not advisable to discuss your child's situation with others in front of him. This only exacerbates the child's self-consciousness and harms self-esteem.

When lifestyle changes are imposed upon us through medical, legal or educational circumstances many of our resources may become strained. To help sort out the effects, it is helpful for the entire family to sit down together, discuss the situation, and align the efforts of all family members so as to maximize the results of the professional services and enhance interpersonal support within the family.

ęCopyright 1995, Jane Rosen-Grandon, All Rights Reserved

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Last Updated August 30, 1998 by Gary M. Grandon, Ph.D.