Pardon me, do you have a cold or flu?

Mistaking “symptoms” as “problems” and missing the chance to be therapeutic.

By Lorraine E. Fox, Ph.D.

As I approach my 44th year working with mistreated children and youth and those who serve them, I am continually discouraged by how often I encounter child care workers, foster parents, and others who confuse “symptoms” with “problems.”  Symptoms are a gift from God/nature, allowing us to know when something is not right with our system, so that we can attend to it and give our bodies the care it needs. How would I know I was coming down with a cold, or flu, if my body didn’t ache, sneeze, cough, and generally feel bad? How would I know that I had an infection if I didn’t run a temperature? Sneezing, coughing, aches, and temperatures are not problems, but signals – signs of distress that cue us of the need to engage in caretaking activities.

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