Parenting is never easy, but parenting with chronic pain can be especially tough. Here are some ways to be the best parent you can be, even when chronic pain leaves you feeling your worst.
Communicate With Your Child
Seeing a parent suffer from chronic pain can be confusing and even frightening for a child. Instead of trying to hide your pain, have an open conversation with your child. Talk about your pain in age-appropriate terms, listen to their concerns and offer reassurance. Remember that this isn’t a one-time conversation. As your child grows, you will have new questions to answer and more details to give.
Preserve Their Childhood
Children with parents in chronic pain often become more like caregivers than children. Although letting your child help you can make them feel needed, special and appreciated, it’s also important to preserve their childhood.
Studies have shown that children in these situations are much more prone to certain behavioral, psychological and even physical problems. Let these statistics give motivation and not guilt or fear. Never leave your child with the feeling that they are responsible for your pain or that they need to hide their own pain from you — no child should have to worry about things like that.
Save Your Spoons
Have you heard of the spoon theory? The basic idea is that when you live with chronic pain, you only have so much energy to expend on a given day (represented by spoons). Once your energy is gone, it’s gone — so you have to be sure to save some for special events.
Chronic pain may keep you from doing everything you want to do with your children, but you can make a point of being there for special events. If you know your child has a piano recital or basketball game coming up, plan to be there. For the rest of the world, that just means adding a note to your calendar, but for someone with chronic pain, it means storing up energy (or saving spoons) ahead of time. You may also need to pre-medicate.
Be Positive and Creative
A positive mood can make the difference between a bad day and a good one. Rather than focusing on all the things you can’t do, come up with some creative alternatives. You may not be able to say “yes” to everything your child wants to do, but that doesn’t mean you have to say “no” every time. If you can’t sit on the bleachers for a two-hour game, take a cushion, or try spending halftime in the comfort of your car. Instead of saying “no” to a trip to the park, plan one for later.
Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Parenting with chronic pain isn’t easy. No matter what type of pain you suffer from, or what causes it, you should never feel like you have to go it alone. Ask your friends and family for help when you need it, or consider hiring someone to help with chores so that you can spend more time with your children. You won’t regret it.