Up until now, in this series on transitioning from the pediatric to adult medical systems, we have focused on defining transition and why it matters.
Now, we are going to start looking at how to start the transition process at as young an age as possible. In fact, the transition to responsibility starts when kids are old enough to spit peas from the high chair!
First, let's briefly discuss the concept of “control.” Control is a basic human need just like food and water. When humans feel like they have no control, they do some pretty crazy things to get control including things that may be self-destructive. And when children have special medical needs, there are times when they have little or no control over their bodies. So much in their lives can feel out of control! And when they feel out of control, they can act out, misbehave, and cause all kinds of trouble. So, Love and Logic® teaches us to share control as much as possible.
1. The easiest way to share control is with choices. Rather than telling a child what to do and when to do it, use choices. What happens when we say to a child: “Come here and take your medicine!”? Power struggle, arguing and complaining, right? Instead, try: “Would you like to take your pills with apple juice or grape juice?” or “Are you planning to do your medical treatment before or after soccer practice?” Give choices as much as possible in all areas of life including food, homework, chores, and medical requirements. The more control is shared, the less the likelihood of control battles.
2. Replace statements with questions. Here's what Jim Fay, co-founder with Dr. Cline of Love and Logic, says about this: "How can we make sure that our kids are doing their fair share of the thinking? How can we keep ourselves from getting pulled into working harder on their lives than they are? How can we help them become prepared for a world full of decisions and consequences? Replace statements with questions.”
Some of the most powerful moments come when we empower kids by asking them what they plan to do about various situations instead of telling them what they need to do. The implied message we send says, "You are smart. You can come up with the answer." Children who are given this gift are far more likely to succeed in school and in life. On top of that, the human brain has a hard time ignoring the questions. It automatically searches for the answers - it just can't help itself.
What a gift we give kids when we encourage them to think rather than telling them what to do. A child who is redirected with the question, "Are you sure this is the right place for that behavior?" will respond much more thoughtfully than the child who is told, "Stop that!" One method invites thinking; the other invites resistance and battles for control. Which do you prefer? In either case, we are enticing young brains to do lots of thinking by simply asking questions rather than stating "how it is." So, do your kids' brains a favor and feed them a steady diet of questions."
Some questions you might ask your child with special healthcare needs are:
"What kinds of foods can you eat today to get the proper nutrition?"
"What do you think might happen to your body if you forget your medication?"
"What is the best choice for your body?"
"Have you thought about what might happen if you don't listen to the doctor?"
“What is your plan for getting your medical treatments done on time today?”
Give choices and questions a try especially if you are experiencing power struggles with your children. You’ll be amazed at how well they work to reduce power struggles and give your children the opportunity to do more of the thinking than you.
Foster W. Cline, MD is a child psychiatrist and co-founder of Love and Logic®. Lisa C. Greene is a parenting educator and mom of two children with cystic fibrosis. Together they have written the award-winning book “Parenting Children with Health issues." For free audio, articles and other resources, visit www.ParentingChildrenWithHealthIssues.com.
©Copyright by Foster Cline, MD and Lisa Greene. All rights reserved.