700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

Emotional Support for the Colorectal Patient

Sep 12, 2018
image of two kids playing

Children with colorectal diagnoses, such as an anorectal malformation, Hirschsprung disease and functional constipation, can experience a wide range of medical, social and emotional challenges. These diagnoses are unique in nature due to invasive treatment plans that can largely impact life at home, school, peer relationships and overall quality of life.

While Child Life Specialists, Psychologists, and Social Workers work with children and families to promote resiliency, self-efficacy and coping skills when they are impacted by a chronic medical condition and/or hospitalization, there are also a number of ways for parents to support children with a colorectal diagnosis:

Support at Home

  • Normalize and validate the child’s worries and fears about treatment and the diagnosis.
  • Include the child in their bowel regimen (i.e. choosing activities during flushes, help with setting up supplies for treatment, mixing fiber or laxative with drink of choice, and/or creative ways to take medication as able).
  • Provide age and developmentally appropriate information regarding the upcoming appointment/hospitalization or reason for treatment: why is the patient going to the hospital, what will be discussed, will any procedures occur, who they will see or meet, why is the treatment/procedure needed.
  • Regularly set aside time to spend with your child doing a fun activity that is not related to their diagnosis or treatment (i.e. child-direct play, movie nights, game night, or parent-child dates).
  • Keep appropriate expectations for your child and set appropriate limits on behavior.
  • Involve siblings in child’s care and treatment as appropriate to promote family bonding and normalization.

Support at School

  • Discuss a 504 Plan with the child’s school regarding restroom accommodations.
  • Discuss with your child’s teacher about your child’s diagnosis to better promote understanding including their needs during school hours. This can be done by providing teachers with diagnosis specific resources to support a 504 Plan and from the medical team.
  • When appropriate, provide education resources for peers. Imagination Press provides developmentally appropriate resources for parents, teachers, and clinicians to address soiling.
  • Help your child develop a script for sharing about their diagnosis and treatment with peers. Child life can assist with age appropriate language and school reentry resources.
  • Have a discussion with your child about what information relating to their diagnosis and treatment that should be kept private.
  • Help your child develop positive peer relationships through play dates and extracurricular activities. Social support from peers can be a strong buffer against bullying.

Support in the Hospital

  • Assemble your support team in the hospital and request support from a Child Life Specialist who can aid with:
    • Developmentally appropriate hospital preparation through verbal information, play/demonstration, or photos and books for procedures and admissions.
    • Teaching coping techniques to promote non pharmacological pain management.
    • Provide teaching resources, emotional support, and normalizing activities for siblings.
    • Advocate for your child’s needs.
  • Create a coping kit to bring to the hospital or a clinic visit. This kit can include comfort items, toys, games, sensory objects, a journal, books, etc.
  • Encourage a normal environment and activities in the hospital environment to promote a positive space.
  • Utilize support resources at the hospital (i.e. Sibling Clubhouse and Family Resource Center).

The information provided is not a comprehensive list of recommendations and may not work for all families. It reflects our collective knowledge and experiences working with families and children with colorectal diagnoses.

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.