Adjustment to illness

Adjustment Disorders

Most all of us experience significant changes in our lives. Sometimes the changes are good and sometimes not. Our ability to cope with these changes affects our emotions and how we move forward with our lives. Children often have a harder time adjusting to change than adults. Their emotional resources are not as sophisticated as an adults and consequently they can develop some maladaptive behaviors and/or emotional difficulties when faced with change.

Common life events that children struggle with include:

  • Parents divorcing
  • Death of a pet or loved one
  • Onset of physical illness
  • Awareness of national tragedy (i.e., 9/11 attacks)
  • Moving or friend moving away
  • Starting school
  • Break-up of a romantic relationship
  • Starting middle school or high school

In the face of these changes it is very important to emphasize to your child the many ways in which things have not changed. Stability and routine become very important in ensuring their sense of security. It is normal for a child to develop emotional issues like increased tearfulness, some social withdrawal or increased irritability. Being mindful that these changes are likely the result of the adjustment your child has experienced can help you to be supportive.

When these mood or behavioral problems persist, despite efforts to support and maintain stability in their lives, it may be helpful to seek support from your pediatrician or a mental health professional. With some additional support is it very likely that your child will find effective ways to cope with change and resume functioning as normal.