January 19, 2012

AskDocG: A Guest Post


Somehow among all the clickity-clicks and tweets that go scrolling through my timeline I became connected to a great lady who is a real doctor in IRL (and a mother to 4 boys!).  She is a physician, public speaker and currently on her way to global domination, I think, with her sound and practical, yet compassionate, parenting advice.

I have never been one to listen to so-called "experts" on parenting.  But Dr. Deborah Gilboa (DocG) is different. She is utterly personable, kind and easy to talk to  She doesn't judge (at least not out loud).  Honestly, I think I could talk her ear off if I had the opportunity!

DocG's blog on her website is all about answering real parenting questions, so when I asked if she would do a guest post for me and she said yes, I sent a doozy.  However, I am not at all surprised that she was able to answer my tough question so well.



Me: Ever since we had kids we've struggled with balancing them and my husband's health condition. Sometimes we feel guilty about being parents with disabilities.  We especially struggle to balance just how much our kids are burdened by the stress and worry of their dad's health.  I don't want to shelter them or sugar coat things, but also don't want to frighten them.  But I do worry about the fact that they could lose their dad when they're still young.  I've never said this to them, but sometimes I wonder if I should, to prepare them for the possibility.


So, what do you think is the appropriate way to raise children amid chronic illness?

DocG: First off, Jen, let me say that I have followed along these past months and been amazed by the honesty and grace with which you and Mark seem to face these challenges. Good health is guaranteed to no one, but taken for granted by so many. I hope that someday your family is able to live with great good health.

Every family going through hardship struggles in this same way with how to teach their children about their situation. Your children are at very different developmental stages, but both are bright kids with empathy and understanding.

The bad news is this: we don’t have much choice about the struggles our kids will face in their lives.

The good news is this: the more we show faith in their competence to handle struggles, the more resilient they will become.

To encourage your quest for balance here are a few guidelines:

  • Share the work. It is fine to put some extra responsibilities on your kids as they pitch in for family chores. If a parent has mobility issues, your kids will not think twice about being asked to carry things or do some walking tasks. This is part of the reality of your family and will teach your children helpfulness and empathy. I would not be surprised if teachers at school tell you that your kids look out for people who need a little extra help.
  • Don’t share your worry. Kids should not be “leaned on” emotionally. You are still the rock in their world – disabilities do not change that. They look to you for comfort and stability, and need to do that.
  • Have empathy but no guilt. It is not your fault that your family has obvious differences from other families. You can show your children empathy if they express frustration or embarrassment about these differences, but don’t apologize for the reality. Encourage your kids to think about ways in which other families might have less obvious but still large difficulties to overcome that put stress on them (like military families, minority families, out of work parents, etc).

For your 11 year old, it’s time to start asking her how she feels about the health issues in your family. This will show her that her parents’ health is not an off-limit topic, and encourage her to think about it. If she asks questions about the future, or her dad’s prognosis, don’t lie but don’t dwell on it. No one knows what the future holds or when. Encourage her to appreciate the now, remind her that your family situation has a silver lining: you know better than most to make the most of each day.

For your six year old (happy birthday!) you can strengthen him by modeling good care-taking behavior. That doesn’t just mean encouraging him to take care of others! Show him how you take care of yourself, encourage him to also take time for his own interests, to express his feelings and to stay fit. Model gratitude (out loud), and living in the moment so that he will internalize these great habits.

This is a hard situation, but they can teach your kids great character traits and lifelong skills.

* * * * *

See what I mean?  DocG's advice on this matter makes me feel encouraged that we are already doing many of the right things for our kids, while also letting me know straight - no wishy-washy-ness - about the realities I have to consider. And yes, Cami's teachers have told us she is a very helpful and compassionate kid. So neat that DocG thought of that!

I've started referring to DocG as my "doctor friend",
and you can too!

Connect with Dr. Deborah Gilboa:



24 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  2. Thanks so much for asking me Jen! I look forward to the conversation with your readers.

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    1. I do too. And I thank you so much for such a thoughtful and personal answer. I really appreciate it. :-)

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  3. Coolio! It reminds me of something that was going on with my wife and I in the not too distant past. Sounds like good advice overall.

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    1. Sorry you and your wife struggled. But one "lemons-out-of-lemonades" opportunity is to teach our kids empathy and gratitude from inside the home.

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  4. I know Dr.G too from the great internet and I have told so many people the same thing, I don't do the "expert" stuff but she has a different way of putting things. You WANT to listen to her. She doesn't go all judgmental and "this is how it has to be" She listens to you and your specific situation and hands advice off in a caring, personal way.(I'm talking about her like she isn't here but HI!!!)Jen, BIG hugs to you!!!! You are doing a wonderful job!!!

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    1. You said it even better than I did, Dee. And thank you!

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    2. Man, is it any wonder I love hanging out here? (blushing)
      This "parent expert" thing only means that, as a family doctor, I have met lots and lots of parents and seen many ways to handle problems.

      I so appreciate your friendships!

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  5. Thanks for introducing me to her!! I'm totally going to hit her up for advice on Donut's separation anger/anxiety issues. It's getting out of control!

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    1. I'm sure she can totally help you with that!

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    2. I'm so glad you submitted your question on my site! For others who are interested, you can do that here: www.AskDoctorG.com

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  6. Wonderful question and amazing answer. Dr.G sounds like she knows you! So welcoming to get such insightful comments that you can really feel, and take to heart and that she took the time to read about you and Mark, and the time to formulate and articulate advice specifically for you. {hugs}

    Let us know how talking to Cami goes... and if AJ starts modeling gratitude ;^}

    I know ever since Cami could walk, she would guide you through a dark parking lot, etc. She has always looked after her mommie!

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    1. I know, and her teachers really do tell us she's sweet and helpful at school. And yeah, AJ modeling gratitude will be a special thing!

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    2. Is this Jen's mom? How cool!

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  7. This was good. I esp. liked the balance portion, I learned a few things.

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    1. Good, I'm glad! I too am constantly learning things about balance.

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  8. Fantastic advice! We too struggle with our 5 year old daughter on how and when to explain her older brother's special needs to her; and why things are different for him. I can apply a lot of what you said to Jen to my own situation. Thank you! :)

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    1. Oh, I'm so glad this was helpful. I often think that these struggles, while tough in childhood, make for some great adults!

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  9. I love DocG. She is such a genuine person. I have actually called her and tweeted her and DM'd her, (everything short of showing up on her door) when I need advice and she's always there!

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    1. And I love it when you do. So nice to have true e-friends, that I just know will turn into IRL friends some day.

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    2. Now DocG, are you sure SG isn't just stalking you? ;-)

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    3. I'm here just to like this comment...that and I love the Doc!

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