Coping with Illness and Other Family Emergencies


Eight months ago our second child stopped eating almost entirely because of acute stomach pain. He dropped three weight classes and became “failure to thrive”. He underwent surgery and was primarily fed through a gastronomy tube (G-tube). He has since rounded a corner and is eating again.

Here’s what I learned that could be helpful to parents who are in the midst of struggling with a child’s illness or other family emergency:

1. Find someone who has been through it and who has come out the other side (Neighborhood Parents Network message boards, Lurie Children’s Hospital support groups, community, national online community forums, etc.)

2. Let friends and acquaintances help when they offer.

3. Find a non-judgmental third party who isn’t involved in your family. Allow yourself to unload each week at a scheduled time so that you don’t let the stress build up and overwhelm you.

4. Thoughts and actions are very different. It’s OK to have horrible, mean, ugly, scary thoughts about your situation. It doesn’t mean you are bad. Letting yourself write them down or share them in therapy is a good way to avoid acting aggressively in real life.

5. Plan week to week. Things can change in an instant when your in crisis mode. What kind of extra support do you need this week? Don’t worry if you can’t figure out plans in larger chunks. You will once you are out of crisis.

6. If you have more than one child, find an activity that you can share with your well-child. Remind them that it will be their time soon when they are feeling edged out by the family emergency.

7. Accept 12 or 24 hour respite care if possible – family, friends, bedside nurses, etc capable of filling in for 12-24hours or even a couple of days. This can help you revitalize enough for another week of ‘battle’. (Write down detailed instructions once and make photocopies so you don’t have to explain everything again and again. offers nannies with medical and special needs experience; Ronald McDonald House provides respite care, too.)

8. Let go of perfection. You will have time in the future to make everything beautiful again.

9. Try not to turn on your partner. Don’t engage important issues during high stress times of day or on days when you are in crisis mode.

10. You need sleep. It is not a luxury. It affects your mood, immune system and your ability to think effectively. You need to be alert to take care of your children. Safety first.

11. Communicate with your boss and HR (don’t leave them guessing or assuming why you or your partner is absent). Ask about if your family is eligible for Family Medical Leave benefits.

12. If you are a stay-at-home parent, you may need to accept paid help. If you your partner works they may not be able to pinch hit. Find someone to be there so your partner isn’t jeopardizing his/her long-term ability to support the family financially.

13. Don’t take short-cuts when your exhausted. You are stressed and more susceptible to making mistakes. Slow down when you buckle the kids into their car seats or when using the stairs. Also slow down when cooking with knives, the stove or oven, or when pouring hot beverages.

14. Don’t compare yourself to others.

15. It’s normal to cry. It’s OK to feel totally incapable of dealing with your life. It’s OK to feel everything under the sun.

16. Ask doctors for explanations, risks and alternatives to the treatments they suggest. Use the internet, friends, colleagues, and whatever else is at your disposal to be taken seriously by your medical team. If you don’t feel like you’re on the same page as your medical team, ask for a patient advocate or liaison at your hospital to help figure things out. That is their job description. Other helpful people to get to know at the hospital are the Child life specialists, social workers, and discharge planners on your floor. Also, if you like a particular nurse, don’t be shy about talking through your issues.

17. When the crisis lets up, don’t be surprised if it doesn’t feel like an immediate relief. You may feel worst in the wake of traumatic events before you feel better. If you don’t feel better after a few months you may want to explore therapy for the treatment of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), which can follow in the wake of traumatic medical events that happen to you or a loved one whose survival may have been in jeopardy.

That’s a long-list, which may or may not apply to your family’s situation. Feel free to contact me if you need additional therapeutic resources in the Chicago area. Different medical problems require different levels of care, so disregard anything that’s not useful and good luck to you and your family.

My name is Madigan Kent I’m an LCSW working in private practice in Lakeview, Chicago. I work with individuals and parents, with a focus on integrating body-centered treatments into talk therapy.

Go to my website for more about my therapy practice working with individuals and parents. I’m located at 1300 W. Belmont Ave in Lakeview, Chicago. For more blog-posts click here. Go to my resources page to find some of the programs I mentioned. Email me at for questions.


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Baby Got Colic?

My baby won’t stop crying
My baby won’t eat
My baby won’t sleep
My baby wakes up at the drop of a pin
Something wrong with my baby?
What is colic?
Is my baby normal?
How can I make my baby eat, sleep, stop crying?
Is inconsolable screaming normal for a baby?

If you have typed one of these phrases into Google, then your baby may have the all-illusive, soul crushing, exhausting, fussy baby condition colloquially referred to as Colic. And there is help available. The Fussy Baby Network is a program in Chicago dedicated entirely to helping parents survive the first few months of life with a baby who struggles to eat, sleep, or is just plain difficult to care for. I’ve been there twice now, and remember calling the hospital at 3am when my first child was a few weeks old. “She won’t stop screaming” I cried to the nurse. She said “babies cry, it’s normal”. What I didn’t know then was that it wasn’t normal and that help was available for families like ours. It took two hospitalizations for our son before a different nurse told us about The Fussy Baby Network here in Chicago. The Fussy Baby Network is dedicated to supporting parents who struggle with babies who have trouble feeding, sleeping, or other problems resulting in a difficulty in being soothed. They can’t stop your baby from crying, but they can sit with you on the phone or in-person and together you can get through the moments when you don’t think you can listen to another scream without loosing control of yourself. The Fussy Baby Network accepts all families regardless of income and they have a warmline that you can call in moments of crisis. One call can make all the difference. If your located in Chicago, I am available for additional counseling support in the Chicago area. You can learn more about my practice at Happy Parent, Happy Child Therapy located in Lakeview, Chicago.

Fussy Baby Network Services:
Fussy Baby Parent/Infant Program (in-home visits) CHICAGO
Fussy Baby Clinic (medical clinic) CHICAGO
Fussy Baby Caring Parent Groups (parent support) CHICAGO
Fussy Baby Warmline (phone support) NATIONWIDE

Fussy Baby Network Contact:

Madigan Kent Psychotherapy & Happy Parent, Happy Child Program in Chicago:
(872) 225-2150

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Prenatal and Postnatal Pregnancy Health from the Inside-Out

Exercise can be a medium for therapeutic change. I love babies, my babies, but I do not love pregnancy. At all. First time around I fractured my pelvis in an icy parking lot in Greensboro, North Carolina. The second time I hobbled around Chicago’s frozen streets, up three flights of stairs carrying a toddler, counting the seconds until I gave birth. Yes, birth seemed like a more comfortable alternative to pregnancy. So, if you loved pregnancy, this post will not be helpful.

However, if you are in Chicago, and are willing to try anything to improve your relationship with your body before, during, and after having a baby, then I have a suggestion based entirely on personal experience. Get in your car, on the train, bus, or by foot to pilates class with Marcia Brenner at Frog Temple Yoga in Bucktown. She melds exercise with therapy by slowly and gently helping women find access to their bodies in ways that respect emotional and physical pain barriers. Rather than pushing through, she welcomes women to sink into their sensations, noticing what happens and how the body wants to repair itself. Using guided imagery and irreverent humor, it becomes safe to feel curious about what’s happening on the inside.

Marcia’s therapeutically informed approach to exercise is great for women during pre and postnatal development, as well as for women seeking alternative avenues to strengthening and healing the body they were born with.

For more information on Pilates lessons with Marcia, please contact her through her site Great Balancing Act, email her at, or call Frog Temple at 773-489-0890.

Therapy Lakeview Chicago Prenatal Postnatal Parenting Support Motherhood Counseling Body-centered

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What do I know about meditation?

I don’t know very much about meditation. I’ve worked around the edges when working with trauma from a holistic perspective. But I’m no pro. I came across a new resource for folks interested in learning more about mediation as a complimentary tool to psychotherapy or talk therapy. Check out . It’s great because I think it makes meditation more accessible for the non-meditative soul. You don’t need to have been diagnosed with PTSD to benefit from the resources available here.

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Open in Lakeview

After two great years in Lincoln Square I’ve relocated to the 1300 W. Belmont building in Lakeview . I’ll update my blog with some new material soon, including a lot of good parent support resources I discovered in my journey over the past seven months with my son, who went through a lot of medical trauma and hospitalizations in the first few months of life.

Stay tuned!

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Pre-marital financial counseling


Open and honest communication about money can be scary when your about to take the plunge into marriage – “what if they don’t like what I have to tell them?” – but it can also solidify your relationship, by proving that you are capable of taking responsibility for your shortcomings and willing to work proactively to improve your financial wellbeing.

Here are some questions you can ask:

  • How much money would it be OK to spend without discussing it with my spouse?
  • Do you think, upon marriage, you two should have separate or joint checking accounts??
  • How would you feel about borrowing money from parents?
  • Do you currently balance your check book?
  • Upon marriage, which of you should balance your check book?
  • Do you currently live on a written budget?
  • How much debt do you currently have? What kind of debt?
  • How much debt and what kind of debt would be OK in your marriage?
  • Are you in favor of a pre-nuptial agreement? If you answered “Yes”, explain your answer.
  • What is your credit score?
  • Have you ever NOT paid your bills?
  • Have you ever co-signed a loan? Had a loan co-signed?
  • Upon marriage, what would your short term financial goals be?
  • Upon marriage, what would your long term financial goals be?
  • What is the stupidest thing you have ever done with money?
  • What financial secrets does your fiancé not know about?
  • Which of these three best describes you: tightwad, average or spendthrift?
  • Which of these three best describes your fiancé: tightwad, average, or spendthrift?

I excerpted this list from a financial planning site ( I like to include as many resources as possible, regardless of religious affiliation).

Interested in pre-marital counseling? I love working with couples who are preparing for marriage, newly married, or contemplating parenthood.

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The Mixed Emotions Card Deck


Ever struggle to identify your feelings? Have a child or teenager who acts out because it’s too tough to verbalize what’s going on inside?

Mixed-emotions cards are one way to get in better touch with feelings and to increase your emotional vocabulary. They depict powerful images that can make you say – yes, that’s exactly what’s going on inside. By connecting feelings with images, you can increase your ability to communicate clearly – with yourself and with others. And, you can offer them to your kids or even your partner, if it seems like words or conversation aren’t getting to the root of things.

Check out The Mixed Emotions Card Deck from Petra Martin



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Pics from the Fair

Here I am getting the word out about Happy Parent, Happy Child Therapy at the Lakeview Women’s Wellness Fair at the YMCA last Saturday June 2nd, 2012. I have extended the HPHC hours to include both Thursdays and Fridays in Lincoln Square.

I provide individual and couples counseling at my office 2334 W. Lawrence Ave, Chicago, IL 60625. Happy Parent, Happy Child is a program that combines counseling and therapy with drop-off supervised play in Chicago – so parents can get the support they need, and kids can  work out their energy – all at the same time. So, if you don’t have childcare but want counseling or therapy, contact me and I’ll walk you through the process.


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Meet me this weekend at the Lakeview Women’s Health & Resource Fair

Want counseling but have no idea where to begin? Can’t find the time to brush your hair – let alone find a therapist AND a babysitter? Drop on by the Happy Parent, Happy Child booth this weekend from 10am – 1pm at the Lakeview YMCA’s Women’s Health Fair. I’ll help get you started!

Also, stop by and enjoy FREE:
YMCA guest pass
YMCA group fitness classes (10:00 Reformer Pilates; 10:30am Mat Pilates; 11:30am TurboKick; 11:30 am Reformer Pilates; 12:30pm Zumba)
Health screenings
Self-defense demonstration
Gift bags from local businesses for the first 100 attendees

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