From Serious Illness to Playtime! Maintaining A Sense of Wonderment After Your Child Falls Ill

When a child falls ill, they are thrust into an adult world of doctor’s appointments, injections, medications and hospitals. Oftentimes a child struggling with illness doesn’t have enough energy to play – but playtime is an essential part of childhood and is beneficial both physically and mentally – especially when a child is ill.

So what can we do as parents to help our children maintain their sense of childish wonderment in the face of grown-up medical issues?

Finding The Right Care Facilities

In the memorable and heartfelt movie Patch Adams starring Robin Williams he says, “if you want to be a doctor you have to learn how to treat the patient as well as the disease.” In my time working with children as a radiation oncologist, I have seen that personally connecting with young patients is a great way to help them get better.

As a parent, your first priority when your child is diagnosed with a serious disease should be to try and find the best doctors and hospitals you can. Many children’s hospitals are operated specifically with children in mind and aren’t as scary as the adult versions.

Laughter Is The Best Medicine

Recent scientific studies have proven that laughter has both physical and emotional benefits. In fact, it appears that laughing has a similar effect on the body as working out.

If your child isn’t well enough to go outside, run around, and physically exert themselves giving them plenty of opportunities to laugh is a great way to ensure they stay healthy. Pick out some silly movies, play charades, hire a magician or clown to make an appearance, or bring them to a comedy club!

Furry Friend Therapy

Getting a pet for your child is a great way to provide them with more time to play. Even if your child suffers from pet allergies, there are plenty of great pets out there for them – fish, salamanders, and turtles all make great hypoallergenic pets.

Having another creature to care for can also help take your child’s mind off of their own illness and provide them with a sense of control. Just make sure you have the time to help them take care of the pet on the days they’re really feeling sick.

Can you think of any other ways to help maintain playfulness when your child falls ill? It could be anything from reading a book to baking a cake!

Published on: August 21, 2013
About the Author
Photo of Maitland DeLand

Maitland DeLand, M.D. is a radiation oncologist who specializes in the treatment of cancer in women and children. In The Great Katie Kate series, Dr. DeLand calls on both her professional and personal experience to help children facing various illnesses. For more information, visit:

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Recent Comments

Do word games count? Our family loves to play Ghost and Botticelli when we wait in lines or have long car rides. Silly words in Ghost could make it more fun.