A study found that demands of caring for a chronically ill child with special needs creates parental stress. It offers tips about how to relieve stress.

Are you surprised to hear that a new study conducted by Case Western Reserve University concluded that parenting a child with chronic special needs creates parental stress? No, I’m not either. Nor is any parent whose raised a child with chronic medical needs. But it’s gratifying to know that Case Western’s review confirms our experience.

What the Parental Stress Study Did

The study, “Parenting Stress Among Caregivers of Children With Chronic Illness: A Systematic Review” assessed 96 peer-reviewed studies in 12 countries between 1980 and 2012. The studies involved parents of kids with asthma, cancer, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, epilepsy, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and/or sickle cell disease. Many of those studies had examined parental stress associated with those specific illnesses, but this was one of the first to integrate everything into one report to provide a broader view.

What the Parental Stress Study Learned

Two of the main findings were that 15% of parents in the United States have chronically ill children with special needs. Researchers also found that the care demands associated with the illnesses caused greater stress than did the severity or length of the child’s illness. The study also noted several causes of stress:

  • Integrating responsibilities of caring for the chronically ill child (appointments, therapies, treatments, school issues) into the regular family routine.
  • Watching a child in pain.
  • Worrying about the child’s vulnerability
  • Explaining health issues to those outside the family


What Can Be Done About Parental Stress

The study found these three tips can help parents relieve their stress:

  • Be open to assistance from friends and family
  • Share special needs parenting responsibilities rather than expect one parent to shoulder them
  • Talk to the doctor about parental stress


A summary of the study can be found at Parental stress of caring for a chronically ill child can affect all family members.

What Do You Do About Stress?

So, that’s what the Case Western experts say. But how about you, the caregiver of a child who lives with chronic illness. How do you relieve your stress? Leave a comment!

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