How do you deal with constant illnesses?

momof5angelsMarch 12, 2009

This week has been difficult...I've been very sick, behind on my work and my husband had to fly out of state and was gone for several days...The "usual" things that kind of get on my nerves totally drove me insane.

My 3 stepchildren are "sick" every day...they have been "sick" for years...Fact is, they aren't really sick...Headaches, stomachaches, dry skin, rashes (where there are no rashes to be seen), sore throats, earaches, so forth and so on...It's always something. They have no tolerance for pain at all and all of them request pills or syrups every day and have since I met them almost 5 years ago. Two of the 3 literally get off of the school bus everyday and come straight to my office asking for pills for different ailments...ailments for which there are no obvious symptoms...I've taken them to doctors who could find nothing wrong...and I've had it...In the last 3 days all 3 of my stepchildren have had incredible fake or self inflicted illnesses...Yesterday my SS11 missed the bus because he claimed his legs were paralyzed and he couldn't get out of bed...He was rubbing his legs blaming his paralyzation on a sore throat he has been claiming to have for a week now. DH came through and told him to get up and get ready for school right that minute. The paralyzation disappeared and he could suddenly walk again. It was a miracle, I tell you. I'm at the end of my rope here...

How does a person deal with CONSTANT illnesses? I mean, it's daily...seriously it's every day...I'm to a point where I just want to say "Stop lying!" But it could be a "boy who cried wolf" moment...What if I say that and they are genuinely sick?

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I forgot to add...The school nurse looked at this sore throat last week...the one SS11 has been complaining about...She found nothing...he said she apparently just can't see it.

I'm losing it here.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2009 at 3:19PM
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Sounds just like my ds! I call him my drama king! He had a popcorn kernel stuck in his teeth before and rolled around on the floor claiming he was dying! He spent most of second grade in the nurses office for one ailment or another. He would fight going to school claiming he was sick. At bedtime he would start the whole "I am sick" routine because I had pointed out how he played all day and didn't want to go to school in the morning.

I began having him lay in bed afterschool if he claimed to be sick.

Last time I let him stay home for a stomach ache he was only fed dry toast, crackers, soup, and 7up (which he did love that part). When he heard dinner was ready and came downstairs I told him that the spaghetti I made (one of his faves) was not good for an upset stomach. He told me it was gone..but I told him that it was still too recent for anything but more bread and crackers. And I sent him back to bed.

If he stays home he is bedridden the whole day! No tv, or toys, or friends. Just lots of rest! Read books and lay in bed. Take baths. Even if he feels better he has to stay in bed and relax because after all he "was" too sick to go to school!!

And I always make sure to get all his homework the same day! So if he misses school he has a whole days worth of work to do that day so he is caught up for the next day.

Then it stops being so fun to be sick.

Maybe if their ailments require lots of rest and no fun even if they "feel better" shortly after they will think twice about being so "sick".

As far as the medication I go the natural route instead of giving them medicine for every ailment. Sore throat?? Drink some tea with honey. Stomach ache?? only bread and crackers and soup all day. Cough? eat a horrible tasting cough drop and drink lots of water. Pain in your legs? Take a LONG bath.

Tell them that obviously medicine is not working so your trying something new!

    Bookmark   March 12, 2009 at 3:47PM
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I agree with the pp. Make being sick not fun. And honestly, if a kid is REALLY sick, they will act really sick - you don't have to worry about the whole boy who cried wolf thing. You'll know. Unfortunately for them, until then, they get no sympathies from you. They will realize it gets no attention and drop it.

My two skids are the same way b/c DH's mother is a hypochondriac. She's even told them that water sitting outside the fridge in their glasses too long goes "bad" and they can't drink it anymore. I'm sorry but water is not cheap and we do not waste anything around the house. We are not rich and we can't afford to just throw water waay b/c it's been sitting on the counter for an hour.

I would ignore them and make them suffer consequences if they don't do what they are supposed to do b/c they are supposedly "sick".

    Bookmark   March 12, 2009 at 4:32PM
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Agree with everything already said. If they are sick then no hanging out with friends, no phone, limited text, limit activities meaning staying in bed or on the couch and only eating "sick day" foods, soup, crackers and watered down 7Up. TV okay, but not computer, or video games because those take energy.

Also, get them to start doing preventative things as a habit, constant handwashing, using anti-bacterial wipes and avoiding sick people. When they are talking about being sick that means no movies, no mall, no skatepark, no arcades, no school events like basketball games, no restaurants, no friends homes, or anything else like that. Now these things actually work to keep kids well but they also take work. If they get on that program they will really stay well and won't be so quick to "get sick."

Good luck.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2009 at 5:48PM
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I think a lot of kids do this. A lot.
My daughter was one of them, although she started in her early teens.
I also think it's a way for them to say "I want attention".
Sometimes they don't know how to say it.
And sometimes I think we need to respond with a "oh, poor baby, what can I do to make you feel better"? Naturally not every time...just occasionally. We all want a bit of that from time to time.
And I agree about staying down if you've missed school.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2009 at 8:26PM
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My 6yo has started this recently. In January, she really was sick, so much so that her pediatrician sent us to the ER, thinking she had appendicitis. She didn't. She did however, have strep and many enlarged lymph nodes in her abdomen, likely accounting for her pain. Since then, she has c/o a tummy ache EVERY SINGLE DAY!!!!! Many, many, many times every day. But, no fevers, no vomiting, no diarrhea or constipation, no lumps/bumps, etc. I really think it's just her way of voicing her need for some attention. So, we try to ignore her complaints and change the topic. But I am so sick of that being the first thing out of her mouth in the morning, and the last thing before she falls asleep. Ugh.

Oh, I should mention, I'm a nurse. I take care of kids with cancer. So, on one hand, I tend to think the worst first. Of course I have palpated her abdomen for masses occasionally over the past 2 months! On the other hand, my husband says I'm the least compassionate person he knows! I must remind him that I see kids/families every day with REAL problems, and that his hangnail, headache or cough doesn't quite deserve the type of attention he is looking for. Our little one's hourly "tummy aches" are beginning to fall into that same catergory.

That said, here's some of our rules, and some ideas. You can ONLY stay home if you have fever over 100.5, that doesn't come down with Tylenol or if you are vomiting or have diarrhea. Otherwise, off you go. If you stay home, you must stay in bed all day. No trips to anywhere, no friends over, no talking on the phone, no computer, etc. Also, no sports practice or rehearsals for which ever thing you are currently involved in.

I don't mind giving Tylenol for complaints of minor headaches, growing pains, etc. I'm pretty liberal with it. However, you might want to invest in some salt tablets or something equally nasty tasting. You will probably find that your kiddos quickly stop asking for medicine if it tastes bad. Same goes for stinky smelling emollients for invisible "rashes." Or make them soak in an oatmeal looks disgusting! Most kids hate it. If they are complainining after school, maybe they just need a snack. If it persists, immediately require that they go lay down in bed. You will probably witness as miraculous healing.

And don't worry about missing something that is real. You'll know. Generally if it's really something serious, they have MEASURABLE symptoms, not subjective ones. They have fever or a real limp or an obvious mass or a change in balance/gait or vomiting. They will ask to go to bed, or for everyone to be quiet, etc. You will know.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2009 at 9:22PM
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With my son it started with a legitimate health issue. Then I think he loved all the attention he got from it he kept inventing new issues! I did not catch on right away and continued giving him the extra attention a sick child gets.

When I finally realized what he was doing I put my foot down and stopped making it so much fun being sick! And I also tried to pay extra attention to him for doing good things instead.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2009 at 9:25PM
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We had a similar problem, every time SD came back from BM's, she had the sniffles or throwing up. She really WAS sick because she was allowed to run outside with no shoes or coat in the cold, or eat lots of junk. It was no use to tell BM as she denied everything and we had to put it on SD to take care of herself when she is at her mom's. We also made being sick, no fun. Really, being sick is NOT fun and I don't quite get trying to make it 'fun' for a kid. I get that we don't like to see them sick and suffering, but to me the answer is emphasize staying healthy to have fun. A sick child that stays in bed, resting is going to get better much faster than a sick child that stays home playing video games all day. All the things that were suggested are good, however I'd go as far as saying that it should be that way for legitimately sick children too... Nobody likes to be sick, except when you get lots more attention!

    Bookmark   March 13, 2009 at 1:58AM
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Thanks everyone! GREAT advice and I'm definitely going to implement some of these things...I do SOME of them to a certain degree but the issues are so common that it just seems overwhelming at times...

Tonight was a very hectic night with kid's activities so I just grabbed some Wendy's for dinner. SS11 wanted a Frosty. I told him "Oh no...I thought you said you had a sore throat?" He said "well, kind of...I guess." I told him NO dairy products when he has a sore throat...By the way, he is doing much better tonight!

I love my stepkids to death and worry that it is a lack of attention that leads to this...but if it is it is not by my doing. I give the kids lots of attention and on top of this, they were doing this from the very first day I met them. What I have told DH is that I am concerned that a constant request and "need" for pills now could lead to a more serious problem in coming years...That could be an overstatement but still is a concern...I'm just to a point that I can't be accommodating to it anymore. It has brought a total "annoying and negative" attitude to their being sick...and that alone makes me feel horrible. We aren't supposed to feel annoyed when are children are talking about being ill, right? It's just hard to ALWAYS be sweet and concerned when it is obviously not a valid illness...

Thanks again everyone! I think saying "Okay, you need to lie down for the day" is a great idea. No computer, no video games...GREAT ideas!

    Bookmark   March 13, 2009 at 3:35AM
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It is an attention getting tactic for sure and they continue it when they get results. Just like any behavior, it will continue when rewarded... good or bad.

I just wanted to comment on your concern for their constant request and "need" for pills because I agree that it could (and most likely will) lead to more serious problems later in life. My aunt was a pill taker. She was a hypochondriac that took pills for everything, including side effects of other pills. She died two years ago after spending over 10 years with serious medical problems, likely associated with her years of pill use. She suffered for years, ended up in a wheelchair and congestive heart failure. It was really sad that we have no memories of her ever being happy... she was always sick. She didn't enjoy her children and grandchildren, she was always complaining about this ailment or that one.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2009 at 12:02PM
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OMG how funny and annoying is this. I have the same problem with my kids.

I also call my SS the drama king. When his mom was prego and very sick he was in the bathroom pretending to throw up to get out of chores. I guess she forgot to tell him her sickness was not the flu. As I mentioned in a previous post I am expecting and am sick all day long. My SS found out I was getting sick and started complaining of a stomachache. He is famous for this my dh and I wondered how far should we let him go complaining to have my illness as well before we told him it was bc of the baby. He also gets headaches and sore throats until it is time to play and they go away and then come back as soon as he is done playing. Once when he was 5 he told us he could not do his homework because his hands hurt too bad from playing video games. He is the ultimate drama king!

His sister who is 3 always wants medicine too and a band aid. If she bumps her hand it is band aid time.

I agree with the other posters. I tell my SS of if your head hurts you better not go play with Peter and go lay down in bed. That clears it right up.

It is annoying and it sounds like you have an abundance of this to deal with. I suggest reminding them of kids who really are chronically sick and cannot enjoy life. Maybe that will help.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2009 at 1:04PM
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lol... i couldnt' stop laughtin gwith some of the posts i just read. Yup, kids do it for attention. But if they are truly ill, they will sleep all day and barely eat i agree with many posters here. No friends, no games, limited tv...can't strain the eyes..may give them a headache:)
and yes, my Ss would often say to his dad , oh i can't eat anymore, i'm stuffed and my stomach is so sore.... To get out of eating what was on his plate. then my Dh would announce we have dessert and SS would cheer up and say oh goodie..and my dh would tell him..oh im sorry i thought you said your stuffed:) ...they're kids...they do and say alot. very normal...but i too would be very concerned with 'pill' taking.... Try to steer them off that concept. How about introducing them to nature medicines. Certain foods that should help them with their 'ailments':) Ginger worked great for my nausea when i was preggers....maybe a tea for the youngsters with nausea can help them...oh did i mention the stuff burns? but its good for you ;)

    Bookmark   March 13, 2009 at 2:38PM
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Like the other moms and SMs, I pack A__ off to bed with some lemon tea, a hot water bottle and nothing fun if he claims to be sick. When he is actually sick, he isn't at all opposed to this. If he's faking it (which is rare - he's too on-the-go to fake sick very often) and I suggest this remedy, he "feels better" rather quickly.

He does get a lot of coughs though (Grandma is a heavy smoker and he spends a lot of time at her house). They're often phlegmy coughs, so instead of a Halls, I get him to brush his teeth and have a glass of water. He would rather have quick-fix cough candies, and gets irritated with me that I go for the solution that is more work but better for him.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2009 at 11:54PM
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Speaking of drama and copying other peoples sickness I just thought of a funny! When my sister was little my stepmom had been in a bad accident. She had surgery and was cut up pretty bad from the accident. She was on crutches and had many bandages on her face and arms. So one morning we all got up and could not find my sister. Looked all over and still no sign of her. We walked outside and saw her sitting in the car in the driveway. We ran and got her out and she was covered in band aids! She told us she got in a car accident too!


    Bookmark   March 16, 2009 at 10:37AM
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