This is a common problem in our home. My four-year-old, who has cystic fibrosis, takes 15+ pills a day and does 1.5 to 4 hours of breathing treatments every day. This can get old for a kid who wonders why no one else around her has to do this. Explaining to her that it is the only way to keep her alive isn't going to work. She's too young to understand and it will likely scare her. So how do we get her to take each and every medication and sit through each and every nebulizer and chest physiotherapy treatment willingly? It isn't easy.
This seems simple, but isn't always easy when your child flat-out refuses to take a medication or put on her nebulizer mask. Especially when there are other children demanding your attention. She's the one who has to sit there while everyone else goes about the day, while her sister gets to continue playing. It is during these high-stress moments that we must be able to breathe and find patience. This is when what we do or say matters most in getting our child to comply with and accept treatments.
Talk to your child. Explain why she must do her treatment or take this medication in terms that she can understand. Then, find a way to make sure she is happy by compromising on how the treatment gets done or how she takes the pill. For example, many pills can be crushed and put in some applesauce if that's what works. If you know your child will swallow a pill but not a liquid medication, make sure the doctor prescribes a pill version for your child. Many medications are available in different forms and some adult versions can be cut in half for your child. Be patient and figure out what works best for you child so she doesn't rebel against her treatments.
You must be able to see things from your child's point of view. Depending on her age, your child is probably wondering why she has to take these medications. She is probably wondering why you or her siblings or her friends don't. She may even be worried and scared about it. Realize your child has concerns and needs them addressed. Talk to her and find out why she's afraid. Let her know that you hear her, and understand. Explain what each medication is and what it is for. She needs to understand why she takes them, and you need to understand why she may be afraid. Otherwise, as time passes, your child may become more and more resistant to her treatments.
Don't let your child go through these early years thinking she is the only person with differences. My child may have cystic fibrosis while no one else in her life does, but there are people around her who have other differences. These differences may not seem that significant to you, but letting your child know that each of us deals with some sort of challenge will help her to accept her own challenges. For example, someone in your family may have diabetes. Someone in your community may use a wheelchair. And someone else may be blind. Being aware of this is helpful when realizing your own value in life.
Don't expect your child to do treatments willingly if they aren't any fun. Make a game out of taking medications — like a magician who makes her pill disappear. Play a board game or watch a show together during therapy. Stay with your child rather than leaving her alone during treatments. It will not only make the time more fun, but will let her know she is not alone.
Even if you don't know anyone in person with the same condition as your child, you can probably befriend one. If there's another child who takes the same medications and does the same treatments but she lives across the country, try letting them be pen pals or use Skype to allow them to be friends. Knowing that someone out there is doing the same treatments as you are and taking the same medications will help your child comply because she feels less alone and less "different."
It isn't easy to be a kid when you have to stop for medications and treatments all day long. Help your child find peace with her health concerns and the extra steps she needs to take to be healthy by letting her lead the way. As long as she taking her meds and completing her therapy, all that matters is she is comfortable.