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Fam Syst Health. 2009 Dec;27(4):303-13. doi: 10.1037/a0018114.

Managing childhood chronic illness: parent perspectives and implications for parent-provider relationships.

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Center for Children with Special Needs, Seattle Children's, Seattle, WA, USA.


When children have special health care needs, parents assume the roles of care coordinator, medical expert, and systems advocate as well as their typical parenting roles. They face many challenges in managing their child's chronic condition in the context of everyday life. Health care providers are uniquely positioned to assist parents in meeting those challenges and to promote parent competency and confidence in their child's care. The data for this analysis were collected during classes for parents of children with chronic conditions who took part in a randomized controlled study of a curriculum's effectiveness. During facilitated discussions, parents discussed challenges they faced and generated strategies they found helpful. Qualitative data analysis revealed dominant themes across subject areas. Challenges included social isolation, strained relationships and ongoing frustrations with health care and educational systems. Helpful strategies focused on being prepared, connecting with peers, becoming an advocate, developing partnerships and caring for one's self. Implications for health care providers include: understanding common challenges parents face; promoting parent-to-parent connections; and building partnerships with parents and their children with special needs.

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