Parenting a child with a chronic medical illness poses unique and enduring challenges. Two mental health professionals marshaled their clinical and personal experience and insights to create a book for parents with a chronically ill child. Frank Sileo, PhD, and Carol Potter, MFT, answer questions about writing When Your Child Has a Chronic Medical Illness: A Guide for the Parenting Journey. This is part two of their interview. Magination Press: Is there a need for mental health wellness for families that have continuing medical issues to address? Frank Sileo: Absolutely! That’s why we wrote this book! In our book, we discuss many mental health concerns for all who are affected by chronic medical illnesses. When parents or individuals receive a medical diagnosis, they seek out the best medical care. What’s common is that they may have strong feelings and other mental health needs that are treated as normal and expected and are often minimized or dismissed as less important than medical concerns. This may be true for parents but also for the child with the medical issue and their siblings. In our book, we present the research, our clinical experience and speak about the importance of not neglecting the mental health of a parent or child. MP: You use a driving metaphor of going on a journey throughout the book. Why did you choose that? FS: I love the images and metaphor of a journey. When I was organizing the book, I spoke with Carol and the development team at APA to use a journey as the backdrop of the book. We are all on some type of journey. When you have a child with a chronic medical illness, you begin an unplanned one. It begins with the diagnosis and the journey can follow many roads. Some are straight and relatively smooth, while others are bumpy, curvy, and at times frightening. In our book we discuss all aspects of parenting a child with a chronic medical illness such as feelings that arise, engaging in self-care, dealing with siblings, grandparents and other caretakers, and how to communicate with the school and medical staff. We discuss how to handle difficult procedures and hospitalizations for a child. We touch upon when the journey may end in death and how to cope. Just like a snowflake, we emphasize that no two diagnoses are the same, no two journeys are alike. MP: Carol, you have also had a career in Hollywood, starring as mother Walsh on the hit long-running series Beverly Hills 90210. What was it like juggling an acting career and a professional one in therapy? Carol Potter: My school schedule was very flexible, so I was able to continue auditioning and working while I was at school. Post-graduation, as I was getting the 3000 hours of experience required by licensure, I was very fortunate to work on another Spelling production, a daytime soap opera called Sunset Beach. They were able to work with my schedule, so that I had enough advance notice to let clients knowRead More
About Frank Sileo, PhD
Frank J. Sileo, PhD, is a New Jersey licensed psychologist and the founder and executive director of the Center for Psychological Enhancement in Ridgewood, New Jersey. He received his doctorate from Fordham University in New York City.
In his practice, Dr. Sileo works with children, adolescents, adults, and families. Since 2010, he has been consistently recognized as one of New Jersey’s top kids’ doctors.
He has authored several children’s books including: A World of Pausabilities: An Exercise in Mindfulness, Did You Hear?: A Story About Gossip, Bug Bites and Campfires: A Story for Kids About Homesickness, and Sally Sore Loser: A Story About Winning and Losing, which is the Gold Medal recipient of the prestigious Mom’s Choice Award.
Parenting a child with a chronic medical illness poses unique and enduring challenges. Two mental health professionals marshaled their clinical and personal experience and insights to create a book for parents with a chronically ill child. Frank Sileo, PhD, and Carol Potter, MFT, answer questions about writing When Your Child Has a Chronic Medical Illness: A Guide for the Parenting Journey. This is part one of their interview. Magination Press: What inspired you to write When Your Child Has a Chronic Medical Illness: A Guide for the Parenting Journey? Frank Sileo: I was diagnosed with a chronic gastrointestinal disease called Crohn's disease back in 1989. It’s a chronic, autoimmune disease that’s a form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Following receiving the diagnosis, I wrote my first children's book, Toilet Paper Flowers: A Story for Children about Crohn's Disease. After I wrote this book, I was invited to speak about how chronic illness impacts children and families. I also started receiving referrals to my clinical practice of kids and families struggling with chronic medical issues. I have always wanted to write a parenting book that would include the advice, research, and psychological coping skills I lecture about and share with my patients in my practice. I wanted to create a tool that parents can have on hand to refer to on their parenting journey. Having this book published is a huge dream come true moment for me! MP: Do you have experience with parenting a child with chronic illness? Carol Potter: My son Christopher did not have a chronic medical issue but did have some learning issues beginning in elementary school, so I am familiar with some aspects of this situation. There were searches for the appropriate professionals to help, testing with a psychologist, working with the schools and teachers trying to get them to understand what he needed, and additions to his schedule that he just didn’t want to do. Fortunately, I never had to worry about his health, or about the kinds of emergencies these parents have to deal with, but being a mom I can begin to imagine how scary it must be when your child’s health threatens their ability to make friends, attend school, or even their very life. All parents worry about their children; the worries of parents whose children have chronic medical illness, though, include concerns about survival, which I know must add immeasurably to the stress they already feel. MP: How did you end up collaborating on this project? FS: I know Jason Priestley, who played Brandon Walsh on the show Beverly Hills, 90210. Jason has reviewed some of my children's books. When I wrote my children's book A World of Pausabilities: An Exercise in Mindfulness for Magination Press in 2017, he told me that his 90210-television mom, Cindy Walsh, played by Carol, is a marriage and family therapist. I looked her up on the web and saw she practices mindfulness with her patients and has a personal practice. I reached out to herRead More