Maybe you were diagnosed with arthritis after you had kids. Or maybe you are already living with arthritis and figuring out if parenthood is the right road for you. Either way, getting real-life ideas about ways to deal with arthritis as a parent from our friends at the Canadian Arthritis Patient Alliance is a smart move.
Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize
Every parent learns—or tries to!—how to juggle wants and needs, both for themselves and for their kids. This is especially true for a chronic disease like arthritis that comes with flares and fatigue. A messy house or yard may be the trade-off for rest time and engaged time with your kids, or perhaps you order groceries online, hire someone to take over some chores or book a family member, friend or neighbourhood teen to be a helper.
Talk to your OT
An occupational therapist is an ideal resource for learning ways to pick up, hold and otherwise physically care for your child while also taking care of your joints. Ask him or her about childproofing items that you can use with little difficulty. Slings and other baby-wearing items may work for you too, so test-drive some to see (buckles can be challenging if you have issues with your hands, for instance.) Try out strollers and other baby gear in the store to see if you can fold and unfold them.
Little ones love doing things on their own, so find ways to encourage your child to climb up on your bed, get into the car seat or stroller and so on, followed by you safely buckling them in, of course.
Work with car seats
Use your largest muscles and joints to put your child in her car seat by putting one arm between her legs and using the other arm to support the rest of her body. Do up the buckles at the top of the car seat first. Try using something like your key fob to put pressure on the car seat buckle or button when you want to open it.
Rethink tub time
Leaning over a tub can be difficult, so why not get right in the tub with your child, or give a bath using a washtub in the kitchen sink? There are many infant tubs that you can use at a level that’s safe and comfortable for you both too.
Choose stretchy stuff
Kids usually love clothes with lots of stretch and a minimum of buttons and snaps anyway, so choose items where you can more easily dress them when they’re infants, and they can dress themselves with a bit of help as toddlers and beyond. Chunky zippers on jackets and Velcro on shoes are other winners.
Consider the impact
Beyond the practical, physical considerations, many parents wonder about how arthritis affects their relationship with their child. It’s definitely tough when you can’t actively play with them the way you want to, but remember your kids will likely value downtime with you too, reading, watching a favourite show, or doing puzzles or games. Seeing a parent strive to cope with a chronic illness often helps kids become empathetic, helpful people, both as a child and as an adult. Communication with them and your partner, establishing how they’re doing and how you’re doing, is always the right way to go.
Be sure to check out even more great ideas about parenting with arthritis from the Canadian Arthritis Patient Alliance.