Parenting a Child with a Chronic Illness During a Pandemic

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Background: Nearly 20% of children in the United States experience one or more chronic health conditions. Parents of a child with a special healthcare need (CSHCN) experience increased stress caring for a child with chronic illness.

Purpose: The purpose of this descriptive study is to describe stress in parents of a child with chronic illness during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods: Parents of CSHCN (n = 34) were asked to fill out the Pediatric Inventory for Parents (PIP) and answer two questions related to caring for their child during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Conclusions: The means of the PIP-F (M = 146.6, SD = 20.5) and PIP-D (M = 141.9, SD = 23.9) were significantly higher than in previous studies. There is statistically significant positive correlation between parent stress and variables of age of the child and the length of time since diagnosis. In response to the questions about the impact of COVID, nearly all parents reported COVID increased their stress and reported their stress was related to isolation, lack of resources, and concern for the mental health of other children in the household.

Practice implications: COVID-19 likely exacerbated feelings of stress for parents of children with chronic health conditions. Although unprecedented, COVID-19 shed light on the existing fragility and high stress of parents of CSHCN. Pediatric nurses not only care for children, but must be advocates for the mental health of their patient's parents.