|   Jan 31, 2017

                                                                                     Childhood is meant to bloom,

                                                                                     Not to wither away in gloom.

Children suffering from physical illness, particularly chronic diseases and disabilities are at an obvious risk to develop low self-esteem. Illness can undermine a child’s personality both directly and indirectly. Direct effects are the ones, which result from the disability caused by the illness. Indirect effects of chronic illness may lead to a variety of personality disorders - low self-esteem being the commonest one.

Illness imposes limitations on the child’s activities, especially if there is an associated physical disability. Chronically ill children or those having a physical handicap may view themselves as imperfect and different from their peers. They are likely to suffer from feelings of inferiority when they compare themselves with other children.

We live in a strange, prejudiced society which, shuns sick and disabled children and looks down upon their families for giving birth to an imperfect child. Such is our apathy and antipathy towards these children that many of us feel a sense of shame for having a chronically ill or imperfect child. This especially holds true for the affluent class, which spends much of its time trying to make a good impression on others. Their lifestyles, houses, clothes, jewelry all have to be perfect. How can they bear the ignominy of having an imperfect, sickly child! They may never voice their disappointments at having a sick child, in fact most parents don’t even consciously acknowledge it, but somehow the child becomes aware of it. What this does to the self-image of the affected child needs no illustration.

On one hand we have parents who neglect and reject their ill children, on the other, there are some who suffer from anxiety and guilt for giving birth to a sick/disabled child. Overprotective and anxious attitude of parents further retards the emotional development of children. These children face difficulties in social adjustments and may be subjected to teasing and bullying by their peers. Such children start avoiding school and are unable to concentrate on class work.

Academic performance of sick children suffers on two counts. Firstly, chronic illness may lead to repeated hospitalizations or confinement to bed at home, thus children miss a lot of school days and fall behind in the class. Secondly, such children may come to believe that because of their disease or disability they are less capable of achieving success as compared to their healthy peers. This may lead to academic and vocational failures in future.

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