Dealing with a chronic illness at any age is quite challenging. No one likes to be in pain or have to deal with invasive tests and miss out on nice opportunities - all things are go hand-in-hand with a chronic health problem. Chronic health problems seem especially heart-breaking when the person who is ill is a child. Amber Tresca, About.com Guide to Inflammatory Bowel Disease is hosting a blog carnival, urging bloggers to address the specific challenges that kids and teens have to face when dealing with a chronic illness (Blog Carnival: Chronic Illness in Children and Teens).
No one likes to see a child in pain. Yet, parents of IBS sufferers have to do just that on a regular basis. A parent's worries may be soothed somewhat when the cause of the pain is known and being addressed. The fact that IBS is a functional gastrointestinal disorder means that parents are not given that little bit of comfort. In addition to trying to soothe their child, they are left with worries as to whether or not a correct diagnosis has been made. Are the doctors missing something? Should they be putting their child through more tests?
Having IBS as a teenager presents its own unique sets of challenges. All most teenagers want to be is "normal." But that is hard to do when your colon is not normal. It can be excruciatingly humiliating to deal with intestinal symptoms when all you want to be doing is hanging out with your friends. Adolescence is also a time when one is looking for love and to be loved. At a time when dating is oh-so-new, IBS can make a kid feel like no one will ever want to be with them.
Another area that IBS makes quite complicated is that of diet. As a parent of teenage boys, I know first-hand that what kids like to eat and what they should be eating are vastly different things. Come to my house at lunchtime and you will see me eating lentil-kale soup, while my boys munch on Pizza Rolls. The IBS intestine is not so forgiving of junk food. Kids with IBS cannot eat what their friends are eating without paying a price later. This issue also puts extra stress on the parent-child relationship - it can become just one more thing to fight about.
One of the things that kids and teens both have to deal with, that adult IBS sufferers are generally spared of, is dealing with teasing. Growing up in an Irish-American home, I learned quickly (for survival reasons) that if an adult is teasing you that means they like you. Teasing from kids is a whole different story. Kids will tease to be mean. And, some kids are relentless. Teasing is no small matter - it is part of bullying - and the effects of being bullied can be serious and life-long. Kids may not be so sensitive if they are teased about having asthma or diabetes, but being teased about "bathroom issues" can be torturous.
School is another area that can be a nightmare for kids and teens with IBS. By necessity, schools tend to be very structured, rigid institutions. This can clash directly with an unpredictable digestive system, causing much anguish for the child with IBS. Kids do have some rights though, and a 504 Plan can be drawn up that outlines any necessary modifications that a student may need due to their IBS.
If you know or love a kid with IBS, make sure to let them know how much you love and value them. Reassure them that although they are stuck with IBS that it does not have to define them. Tell them that one good thing that will come out of their experience with IBS is that they will learn which people really matter and which people are not worth their time and effort. Let them know how much you admire the strength and resilience that they display in dealing with the challenges of a life with IBS. Give them a hug!
This blog is being written as part of Amber Tresca's blog carnival:
More from Dr. Bolen, your IBS Guide:
- When Your Child Has IBS: Advice for Parents
- Information about IBS and FAP in Children
- Functional Abdominal Pain in Children: When to Call the Doctor
- Going to School with IBS
- 504 Plan for IBS in School
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