Wellbeing for parents

When you’re caring for your child with asthma, it’s crucial to look after yourself, too

As a parent, it’s all too easy to put yourself to the bottom of the list. It’s important for all parents to look after themselves so they have the emotional and physical energy to enjoy life. But it’s especially important if you’re a parent of a child with a long-term health condition, such as asthma. 

Peace of mind for parents of a child with asthma 

We know from calls to our nurse Helpline that being a parent of a child with asthma can sometimes leave you with difficult feelings.

That doesn’t mean you’re not coping or doing the best you can for your family. It just means you’re human and could benefit from a bit of expert help and support.

From talking to parents like you, we’ve come up with a list of the most common feelings you might have on a difficult day – read our simple tips on tackling them.

  • Confused – about your child’s asthma diagnosis and the medicine they have to take
  • Frightened – that your child might have an asthma attack when you’re not there to help them, or because you’ve seen them have an asthma attack
  • Frustrated – with healthcare professionals because you can’t get an asthma diagnosis if your child has suspected asthma, or with your child if they’re unhappy about taking their medicines
  • Guilty – that it’s somehow your fault your child has asthma, or that you’re neglecting your other children, or because you’re having to take time off from work because of your child’s asthma
  • Isolated – because you feel you can’t talk to other parents, friends or your family who don’t understand what it’s like to look after a child with asthma
  • Overwhelmed – by the responsibility of caring for your child with asthma.

Whatever you’re feeling, if you’re having a bad day or need a bit of inspiration, please remember that you’re not alone. There is help and support out there for you.

You can chat to one of our friendly, expert asthma nurses (Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm):

Call 0300 222 5800 or WhatsApp 07373 606728

Plus you can join our forum and our parents’ Facebook group to share tips and experiences with other people in the same situation.

If you’re confused

Maybe your child has been recently diagnosed with asthma, or they’re going through the process of being diagnosed. Or maybe they have had asthma for months, or years. Whatever stage you’re at, there can be a lot of information to take in. These tips can help if you’re feeling confused:

  • Take things step by step. We take you through the stages involved in getting an asthma diagnosis step by step. And we have lots more easy tips to manage your child’s asthma.
  • Ask your child’s GP or asthma nurse. Remember that no question is a silly question. If you’re unsure about anything at all, ask your child’s GP or asthma nurse – either at your child’s asthma review or book an appointment straight away.

“I used to be scared of what to do as I was worried about giving William too much inhaler or too little, but I went to the GP for advice and have been shown the correct inhaler technique. I am really determined to make sure I am doing it properly for William. I am definitely more confident now.” – Sarah, mum to William, 3.

If you’re frightened

Lots of parents feel scared when their child is first diagnosed with asthma or they’re having asthma symptoms. Taking these easy steps can give you peace of mind:

  • Know what to do if your child has an asthma attack. If your child’s having an asthma attack, recognising the signs and taking action quickly could save their life. You can see the steps here
  • Use your child’s written asthma action plan. This has all the information you need to manage your child’s asthma in one place
  • Get your child’s inhaler and spacer technique checked. If your child is using their inhaler(s) and spacer in the right way, they’ll get the maximum benefits of the medicine and will be more likely to stay well with their asthma
  • Know your child’s triggers. Working out your child’s asthma triggers means you can make small changes to help manage their asthma well.

“I would say to any parent: don’t panic. It can feel very frightening being a parent of a child with asthma. But you do get to realise what your child’s triggers and symptoms are. With time comes confidence and knowledge. In the last 18 months I’ve started to use a diary to record William’s symptoms, triggers, weather conditions that day, and puffs of reliever given. I would recommend this alongside a written asthma action plan as a guide for anyone looking after your child and for yourself to spot any patterns, such as weather changes or whether they’ve had a cold.” – Sarah, mum to William, 3.

If you’re frustrated

At times, having a child with asthma can be challenging. Parents tell us they sometimes struggle to get the support they need from healthcare professionals and their child’s teachers. 

What you can do:

  • Read our tips about how to get the best from your child’s asthma review
  • Find lots of tips about helping teachers understand what your child needs to stay well at nursery or school.

“I used to worry so much and felt really frustrated and like an over-the-top parent if I kept going in to school. Eventually after I’d gone in enough times they started to take George’s asthma more seriously and I felt more relaxed leaving him in school. Stand your ground with the school, other parents and doctors. Mums know best. You must go with your gut instinct and never give up.” – Jayne, mum to George and Lena, now teenagers.

And it can be difficult to get your child to look after their asthma well when you’re not with them, especially as they get older. What you can do:

  • Share your child’s written asthma action plan with the adults in your child’s life – grandparents, teachers, sports coaches and their friends’ parents, for example – so they know how to help your child manage their asthma when you’re not there
  • Get useful tips on helping your child manage their own asthma.

“Most of the time Sami is okay taking his preventer inhaler. If he has the odd temper tantrum about taking it, it tends to be short-lived because he knows he has to take it whether he wants to or not. I do get frustrated especially when we are in a hurry, but I have to stay calm, and tend to bribe him by saying: ‘You won’t get a treat if you don’t take your inhaler,’ which usually works.” – Shakeela, mum to Sami, 6 and Salis, 12.

If you feel guilty

Some parents tell us they feel guilty their child has asthma and worry they did something wrong. It’s true that factors such as smoking during pregnancy can raise their risk.

These tips might help ease your feelings of guilt:

  • Remember that asthma is a common condition and there are many reasons why a child can get it. For example, having a family history of asthma or a related condition, such as eczema or hay fever can raise a child’s risk. 
  • Remind yourself that what’s important now is to put your energy into helping your child look after their asthma rather than feeling guilty. Then you can make sure having asthma doesn’t stop them doing the things they enjoy.
  • If you’re feeling guilty about having to take time off from work to care for your child with asthma, talk to your employer. You can help them understand what you and your child have been through and why you’ve needed time off. 

“I was shocked and in disbelief when my son Corey was diagnosed at 10 months. I had done everything I was supposed to – he was breastfed until he was 12 months old. Like any first-time mum you feel your baby is perfect and you don’t think it’s going to happen to you. But you have to tell yourself it’s one of those things, and read up on it as much as you can.” – Cheryl, mum to Corey.

If you feel isolated

If you are dealing with your child’s asthma on your own, it’s important to get some practical and emotional support.

  • Write a list of everyone who can help you in practical ways. For example, can a family member come and take notes in your child’s next asthma review? Can a neighbour pick up your child’s prescription?
  • Write a list of everyone who can support you emotionally. Who can you call or visit when you’re feeling worried or down?
  • Have a break. Taking a bit of time for yourself can make a big difference to your wellbeing. Why not ask someone to have your child for an hour and go for a walk, have a bath or catch with a friend?
  • Get extra support. You can make contact with other parents on our Facebook page and through our forums and find our round-up of helpful support here.

“My parents have been brilliant. They know how to deal with asthma because of me, so I feel safe leaving the boys with them. And if I’ve been up all night with one of the boys my mum knows how I feel. She’ll come round with a meal or put a wash on. And they’re always at the end of the phone if I need to offload. I’m really lucky to have good support. It helps me get through the difficult patches.” – Anna and her two sons Gabriel, 10, and Beau, 5, all have asthma.

“Support groups for parents and wider family are a lifeline. I have found a lot of information on the internet. I’ve also found it really useful talking to people who had asthma – particularly those who were diagnosed as children and have grown up with it. It’s good to know what helps them and just talk to other people about what you’re going through.” – Sarah, mum to William, 3 and Thomas, 13.

If you feel overwhelmed

Life can sometimes feel too busy and demanding, and when you’re caught up with worrying about your child’s asthma it’s easy to forget to look after yourself. But if you’re stressed, it can be harder to take care of anyone else. It’s important to:

“As a busy mum I don’t really get a lot of time for myself but I do have a very close family who will help me if I need a bit of help when I feel unwell – which thankfully is not very often. This year I ran the London Marathon for Asthma UK and spent a year training. I have enjoyed using this as a bit of me time. I enjoy reading and cross stitching which I will do if I have a few minutes spare and I do catch up for a cuppa when I can with my friends.” – Sarah, mum to William, 3 and Thomas, 13.

“It’s very important that parents have some time to themselves. My way of relaxing was to go for walks and also catch up with friends. My parents helped out a lot. I used to stop over at their house and they took some of the pressure away whilst I was there.” – Jayne, mum to George and Lena, now teenagers.

 

Last updated May 2019

Next review due May 2022