A chronic illness such as multiple sclerosis (MS) can affect children's emotions in various ways. In general, kids who have changes in cognitive function, such as learning and remembering, may suffer a greater emotional impact, perhaps due to feeling left behind or "less than" other children because of difficulties in school.
Parents can help prevent problems from developing by being aware of the potential emotional impact on kids, and helping them find ways to cope. In fact, a study of youngsters with MS found that many had healthy adjustment to the disease and good self-esteem, likely because they also had a strong system of social support.
Learning ways to overcome troublesome symptoms can be empowering for everyone: Children benefit because they can do something about a condition over which they often feel they have no control, while parents feel they're helping their child. Coping strategies include:
A chronic illness such as MS can sometimes interfere with socializing with peers, a key part of development. The child may feel too tired to spend time with friends, or MS may intensify their worries about being accepted by others.
Here are some ways to help your child feel more secure around peers and at school:
MS can take an emotional toll on siblings and parents as well. Parents worry about their child's well being and feel guilty that they aren't able to protect their child, while siblings may notice, and resent, that more of their parents' attention goes to the child with MS. Many of the same coping strategies — open, honest communication and social support, particularly from other people who are in the same situation — can be helpful for the rest of the family as well.
Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or health care provider. We encourage you to discuss with your doctor any questions or concerns you may have.
Multiple Sclerosis Center
350 Parnassus Ave., Suite 908
San Francisco, CA 94117
Phone: (415) 353-3939
Fax: (415) 514-2470