Parenting a child with any health condition is no small task. While your first priority may be to support them, it's also important to know your needs throughout the process, from the moment you get the diagnosis to treatment and beyond.
"It's important because it makes us better parents and caregivers to take care of ourselves," says Carrie Sewell-Roberts, a social work supervisor with Nemours Children’s Hospital in Delaware.
Being a caregiver of a child with central precocious puberty (CPP), a condition in which the normal process of puberty starts too early, can come with its own set of challenges and self-care needs too. To help you support yourself while looking after your kids, we talked to experts who offered their suggestions on how to put your needs at the top of the list too.
Self-Care Tips for Parents of Children With CPP
Learning how to support a child with CPP is a journey, so the process of caring for yourself may look different on day one than it does several months down the road. Here's some guidance to help with specific stages of managing your child's CPP along with general tips you can use day to day.
Process the diagnosis at your own pace
When you find out your child has CPP, the news can be a lot to take in. It's OK if you're not able to fully absorb all the new information at first. Start by allowing yourself to take as much time as you need to learn about the condition and get a good grasp of treatment choices available.
Jot down any questions you have and bring them whenever you meet with your child's doctor — and don't be afraid to ask the same question multiple times. To help you process the answers, have a family member come with you to take notes that you can review and digest later.
Lean on your doctor
While it may be tempting to seek answers on your own time, try not to do too much online research. Set boundaries around how much you use the internet as a guide. Instead, take advantage of your health care
team for any questions and concerns. They can even point you to other helpful resources that they can vouch for.
"I ask [parents] what their concerns are, what have they been told, what have they read, what do they know and start that way," says Mitchell Geffner, MD, pediatric endocrinologist and Ron Burkle Chair in the Center for Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. "That, I think, tends to help make the process go a little more smoothly."
Though Geffner encourages parents to learn about their child's condition, he says not all sources are reputable. Since the first few doctor's appointments after the diagnosis can come with a lot of new information, Geffner suggests referencing reliable sources like the MAGIC Foundation and the Pediatric Endocrine Society to learn more about CPP.
Acknowledge your feelings
It's normal to
have a lot of emotions when you learn about your child's diagnosis and start new methods of care for CPP. Allow yourself the time to pro
cess them in healthy ways.
Remember the po
e facts. It can be helpful, Geffner notes, to zoom out and keep perspective on the situation. Remember, CPP is a treatable condition, for example. "I'm trying to ease [anxiety] by explaining that if need be, we can do something with a good outcome and safely," Geffner says. "That helps, I think, greatly."
Don't fault yourself. Though you may be tempted to blame yourself after getting the diagnosis, Sewell-Roberts says it's important to "remind yourself that a child's diagnosis like this one is not your fault, that you didn't do anything incorrectly ... and there isn't anything you could have done differently to prevent it."
Give yourself grace. Part of emotional processing is giving yourself some space. Know, too, that you don't have to share any information with people outside your inner circle if you don't want to.
Care for your own mental health
As a caregiver, you'll likely feel emotional pressure, too, which means looking after your mental health is very important. While there are many tips for doing so, and you'll want to find out what works best for you, some common suggestions include:
- Eat well so you have energy.
- Exercise to release stress.
- Be creative and try new things.
- Talk to a loved one for support.
- Get out into nature.
- Get more sleep.
- Make plans for things you enjoy.
- Exchange a small act of kindness.
- Spend time away from your children.
- Address other stressors in your life (financial, relationships, etc.).
Connect with others
Just as there are many ways to turn inward and take care of yourself, there are also plenty of avenues you can access for outside support. In fact, this can help normalize the experience of a new diagnosis.
Check with your doctor to see if their office has resources, staff members, or departments that can connect you with other professionals or those in the CPP parent community.
Some organizations, like the Child Growth Foundation, have a dedicated support hotline you can call for advice or for help connecting with other families that are on the same journey. You may even consider joining a Facebook group for peer support online too.
If you're having a hard time adjusting to your child's diagnosis on your own, you may want to get help from a qualified counselor. Counseling can help you and your family better understand and manage the emotions and challenges that come with CPP. To find a professional, start by reaching out to your personal health care team for suggestions. Some offices have multidisciplinary teams that include mental health providers like social workers and psychologists to help offer support for families.
Photo Credit: LeoPatrizi / Getty Images
Carrie Sewell-Roberts, LCSW, social work supervisor, Nemours Children’s Hospital, Delaware.
CHOC: "7 Tips for Coping with Your Child’s Unexpected Diagnosis."
Child Growth Foundation: "Growth Conditions and Mental Health," "Premature Sexual Maturation (including Precocious Puberty)."
Child Mind Institute: "Why Self-Care Is Essential to Parenting."
Mayo Clinic: "Precocious puberty."
Mental Health Foundation: "Our best mental health tips - backed by research."