PARENTS

If Your Child Has A Serious Health Condition, Here's What You Can Do

03/06/2017 03:27 EST | Updated 03/06/2017 03:27 EST

For any parent, watching your child get sick can be devastating.

But for those who have children with ongoing illnesses, it can be stressful to keep everything else together.

"If families are able to be a family first, and deal with the illness second, then things stay more balanced in the home," Jillian Roberts, associate professor of educational psychology at the University of Victoria, tells The Huffington Post Canada.

Of course, having a sick child means multiple trips to appointments, sometimes watching them overnight, and trying not to break down in front of your other children.

Below, Roberts give us four manageable steps to make the process of taking care of a sick child a lot smoother. And although these aren't overnight fixes, they are starting points you and your partner can consider.

child with cancer

Don't let the illness become the main focus in the family: "My number one piece of advice, based on my own research in this area, is that it is important that the illness does not become the main 'thing' in the family's life," Roberts says.

Of course, this is hard to do especially when a chronic illness is in the child's life for a long period of time.

"It is important for families to try as much as possible to stick to set rules [and] routines. Find a rhythm."

And don't forget to have fun — your child will appreciate it.

"This is important for the siblings of the child with an illness," she says. "These are the times when it is really important to have family games night, movie night, and 'let's make pizza' nights."

celebrations family

Celebrate when you can: "I would encourage families to celebrate medical milestones. Yeah, that round of chemotherapy is finished! Yeah, that is one less surgery we now need to go through!"

It can be difficult to keep your spirits up, she adds, but it is really important to count all the milestones along the way.

And if you do this as parents, it also sets the tone for other family members in the household, especially other children.

women hugging

Don't be afraid to ask for help: "This is really the time to call on support from your family and friends. Ask your network to help with meals and driving to appointments. This is incredibly important and cannot be underestimated," Roberts says.

hospital family

Finally, cherish each other: Nurture each other and take care of each other.

"Spell each other off from long nights at the hospital to allow each other to get a good rest. Leave little notes of encouragement in pockets/shoes. Send supportive texts. Get a sitter and allow each other the space to reconnect," she says.

And most importantly, allow each other the space to cry and process emotions. This is a difficult time and keeping it bottled up doesn't help either partner.