Parenting is never easy, but parenting with chronic pain can be especially challenging. Give yourself some time over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend to consider these tips on how to be the best parent you can be while struggling in the moments that chronic pain leaves you feeling your worst.
Communicate with your children
Seeing parents suffer from chronic pain can be confusing and even frightening for children. 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 children grow, you will have new questions to answer and more details you feel are appropriate to give.
Preserve their childhood
Children with parents in chronic pain can easily take on the role of caregivers while forgetting their role as children. Although letting your children 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 this research give motivation, not guilt or fear. Avoid leaving your children 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 carry the weight of that responsibility.
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.
Parenting with chronic pain may keep you from doing everything you want to do with your children, but you can make it a point to be there for special events. If you know your children have piano recitals or basketball games 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 typically 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. When it comes to parenting with chronic pain, don’t focus on all the things you can’t do. Instead, come up with some creative alternatives. You may not be able to say “yes” to everything your children want 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. Be open to new ideas that allow you to manage your pain as well as spend more time with your children.