Parenting tips for parents of children with asthma

When your child has a chronic health condition such as asthma, parenting can become a whole lot more demanding because of the additional challenges that come with caring for your child. Asthma is a common lung condition which affects approximately one in eleven children in the UK. Children with asthma have difficulties with their breathing and require regular care from parents and medical staff. Symptoms can vary from mild to extreme, and many children will need to take daily medication to prevent and control asthma attacks.  Some children have attacks that are so severe they require hospitalisation.

Childhood asthma can have a huge impact on the whole family. For parents, there can be difficulties with worrying about your child’s health, sticking to complicated treatment plans, getting children to use inhalers, trying to prevent asthma attacks, and then managing attacks when they occur. Some parents worry that they might even make their child’s symptoms worse by the way in which they respond to their child. This can sometimes result in expecting less from your child or letting your child get away with things you wouldn’t normally allow.

For children, even mild symptoms can cause problems such as time away from school, missing out on activities with family and friends, and having fewer opportunities to socialise with other children. Research has also shown that children with asthma can have higher levels of emotional and behaviour difficulties, which can make asthma even harder for parents to manage. For example, some parents say that children become clingy or more demanding as a means of getting their own way or avoiding things such as taking medication.

Many parents worry a great deal about their child and how best to manage asthma. On a positive note, parents who find ways to manage their child’s asthma effectively also report improved well-being in themselves and their children, as well as a reduction in their child’s asthma symptoms. They report feeling less stressed and more confident in their ability to cope with their child’s health condition. This can even have a knock on effect to others areas of parenting – for example, parents who feel confident with managing asthma can also feel more confident about managing their children’s behaviour in general. Parents can also find that other areas of their lives improve, for example they may need less time off work to care for their child.

This is why researchers at the Universities of Manchester and Queensland, Australia are offering parents of children with asthma aged 2-8 years the opportunity to take part in an on-line research study designed to help parents better manage their child’s asthma symptoms and behaviour. Parents who participate will take part in a web-based version of the well-known and internationally recognised parenting intervention the Triple P Positive Parenting Programme, developed by Professor Matt Sanders, shown to improve child behavioural and emotional difficulties (see www.triplep.net).

The research study requires regular access to the internet (for a period of 8 weeks). Parents will complete questionnaires and watch a series of brief video clips (about 10 minutes long) which cover general parenting tips and advice. We also provide tips and suggestions on the practical day to day aspects of managing asthma. These include tips around the following areas;

  • Helping to prevent problems with asthma
  • Setting up a regular routine
  • Preparing and talking to children about medication
  • Using assertive discipline and managing misbehaviour

We are also sending parents their own copy of the Triple P booklet via post. The booklet includes additional parenting information and includes tasks and exercise for parents to think about and practice if they wish.

We hope that parents will find this information helpful and ultimately develop greater confidence in their ability to effectively manage their child’s asthma and behaviour. Taking part in this study will also provide us with valuable information about the effectiveness of our intervention. We aim to use the findings from this research study to inform the development of future interventions for families of children with chronic illnesses such as asthma.

If you would like to find out more about this research please visit the study website at www.parentingandasthma.org.uk

This study has been approved by the University of Manchester, School of Psychological Sciences Ethics Committee.

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