Parenting is a tough job – even for a healthy person! Parenting means that you have to be available to your children in some way, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A disease such as arthritis can make the parenting adventure even more difficult – and painful. Use these strategies to help you remain involved in your children’s lives while remaining as pain free as possible.
Remain involved. When you have arthritis, you may not be able to handle a one-on-one game of basketball, but spending leisure time with your children is an important way to bond. As a parent with arthritis, adapt activities to your needs: play a board game, take a walk or go to the movies with your child.
Be honest but reassuring about your illness. “Hiding it creates a sense of shame,” says Mark Lumley, PhD, a clinical psychologist and professor of health psychology at Wayne State University, Detroit, Mich. “What’s more important is to show how you cope with it by reaching out for support and medicating wisely. Kids learn about dealing with illness in a positive way.”
Stay in charge. Good parenting has nothing to do with physical health. “You can still be a heck of a good parent even if you’re struggling with pain,” Lumley says. “Good parents communicate, counsel, teach and discipline their children.”
Prioritize your life. Focus on what really matters to you – and delegate or lose the rest. “Save your energy for what you can do,” says Ruth Hall, 51, who has rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia. “If I had been told to pace myself in the very beginning, life would have been better for all.”
Stay positive. When you have arthritis, attitude is the most important factor in maintaining a healthy relationship with your children. “If you become defeated by arthritis, your children will feel defeated as well,” says Annmarie Cano, PhD, a clinical psychologist at Wayne State University.