Kirbi's Advice for Parents of a Child with IBD

Kirbi was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease at age 10. She later had a resection in 2009. Kirbi is now attending Kendall College for Art and Design for illustration. Check out her art work on her website Kirbi Fagan Illustrations. Kirbi is a great example of a child who was sick but has grown up to be an amazing, strong adult because of her struggles! She is also a counselor at the Michigan Camp Oasis.

For Parents: 3 Things Your Chronically Ill Child Needs

It’s difficult to know how to relate to your child when they are suffering. I am not a parent myself but I was diagnosed at a young age. Here are three helpful tips to connect with your sick kid of any age.


1. Validation

As a youngster it was very important to me that people understood that even when I looked fine that I was still struggling. Let your sick kid know how impressed you are that they living life with a challenge like IBD.

Words I liked to hear as a kid were things like…

“I can’t imagine how you are feeling…”

“I’m so proud you made it to school ALL day even though I know you aren’t feeling well.”

“I bet all those bathroom trips and pain made it really hard to take your test.”

“I don’t know how you do it!”

2. Independence

Though I don’t have a child with IBD I can only imagine how difficult it would be to resist taking the reins and controlling their every move. Give your children the opportunity to be the one to talk to their teacher about their illness and help them find the words. It takes courage! Don’t email the teacher every time your child has an issue. By the time they are in college they will find it easy to tell their professor about taking multiple bathroom trips during a lecture or needing to turn in a paper late. If you need to intervene, I always appreciated when my parents did so quietly. Perhaps parents, you could leave their medicine on the counter and they could have the responsibility to remember to take it. You very well know if they eat that pizza slice they won’t feel well later that night. It’s time for them to learn if it’s worth the diarrhea.

3. Acceptance

If you can’t accept their illness how will they? When your child has been diagnosed you have a choice to fight. Choose to be positive. Allow the trials of IBD to give your child strength. Sometimes there are things that your child can’t participate because of their adversity and that’s okay. As much my parents encouraged me to do every activity I could they allowed me to say no when I needed to sit out. Whether it was a soccer game, sleep over or school play my parents never allowed me to feel guilty about canceling plans or using my privileges at school.

In high school, I took the ACT and I decided I didn’t want to open my score that came in the mail. I knew that good or bad, I could have done better if I hadn’t missed months of schooling. I had faced bigger things, it wasn’t worth being upset about and to my parents that was okay. To this day, I don’t know my ACT score… or how to long divide.