Since my thirteen-year-old son will soon be driving (argh!), I take every opportunity to talk out loud about why I am making certain decisions as I drive; things that I can do as a defensive driver to be safe. I notice out loud- in a conversational way, not an angry way-what other drivers do that are dangerous or discourteous. I always point out unsafe drivers who are texting or drunk or speeding excessively and “talk through” what my “safe driver responses” are (stay away from them). I figure the more I can teach my kids now as they sit in the back seat, the better the odds are that they will be good drivers when they are behind the wheel!
We can also talk out loud about issues they might be having medically and take the time to teach them about their bodies. If my child complains of a tummy ache, I might respond with something like:
"Hmmm. I wonder if your body is not digesting its food right. That might be why you have gas and tummy aches today. Let's see if it continues for the rest of the day, and if so, we'll call the doctor."
We can draw a simple picture about how the body digests food, read a picture book, or go online to an appropriate site to learn about the body. After talking with the doctor, share (as possible and appropriate) what is said and engage your child in the process:
"Dr. Jones thinks it might be time to increase your medicine so your body can digest its food better. Let's try it today. Can you keep me posted on how you are feeling?"
Teenagers can make the call to the doctor themselves with you coaching as needed. Communicating about these kinds of details in a matter-of-fact, "let's take care of business" manner will help your child cope well with the challenges and learn about the nuances of caring for their bodies. Solving the day-to-day problems together is where the training about medical knowledge begins.
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.