Build a Strong Support System
Your child will need a strong support system of family members, peers, and professionals to help them cope with the pain. Find a doctor that specializes in pain management and consider visiting a psychologist. Both will be better equipped to help your child than the typical pediatrician or family doctor.
More than anything else, though, it is important to keep your family on the same page. It’s all too easy for people to disbelieve that a child experiences chronic pain, so make sure everyone in the family understands the reality of the situation. Don’t forget to take care of yourself, too. Taking care of a child with chronic pain can feel like a full-time job — one that requires you to be physically and emotionally healthy.
Don’t Let the Pain Take Over
One of the first and most important goals in pain management is resuming everyday life. A little rest is good, but too much can actually lead to more problems. As counterintuitive as it sounds, activity — even routine activity — can improve your child’s mood and even lower their level of pain. Going to school with chronic pain is never easy, but it is worth the effort.
Along the same lines, make sure your child’s pain is not the primary focus of your conversations. Asking about their level of pain too often, for instance, can make the pain worse by drawing attention to it. With that in mind, limit the amount of time spent discussing the pain or avoid asking altogether. Set aside ten minutes for your child to tell you about how the pain affected their day, or make a policy where your child will start a conversation if something changes.
Be a Parent, Not a Doctor
Once your child has a good team of professionals, it’s time to develop a plan. There may not be a cure for your child’s pain, but a range of treatments can help. Encourage a multidisciplinary approach that treats the whole person and takes your family’s unique needs into account, then step back and be a parent. Your child often may need you as a medical advocate, but they need you as a mom or dad more.
Instead of assuming you know best, take the time to ask your child what they need from you. People respond to pain in different ways, so your approach needs to be unique to your child. What one child finds comforting, another may find constricting or irritating.
One last tip: don’t forget to praise your child for every step forward. On the toughest days, attitude can make a huge difference. Choose to focus on the good things in life rather than the bad and always reinforce positive behavior. As you lead by example, your positive attitude will benefit you and your child.