Helping your child with JIA gain independence and learn to cope with life
As the parent of a child with arthritis, it’s important to think in terms of what your child can do. Encourage your child to work within their own limits from the start. For example, encouraging your child to participate in age-appropriate chores helps instill important values and will prevent resentment from any siblings who may also have chores. Pick chores your child with arthritis can do or adapt chores to their ability. Folding laundry or setting the table are good examples. Let your child get dressed and undressed on their own, even if this seems to take too long. An occupational therapist can design physical tool aids, such as orthotics, reachers and dollies, that will help children manage. This, in turn, will help them develop competence and confidence with self-care activities.
Be prepared to set limits and discipline your child with arthritis, just as you would your other children. Parents tend to excuse the child with arthritis for inappropriate behaviour or from doing chores because they may feel the child has enough to deal with. Yet this may encourage the child to use their condition as an excuse or to their own advantage, both inside and outside the home. This can lead to behaviour problems later on in life. Parents may find they need the help of a social worker or a psychologist in learning how to best deal with some of these issues.
Ultimately, it’s crucial to keep in mind that your child with arthritis is a child first, who happens to be living with a chronic disease. You will have many conversations with your child that centre on arthritis and treatment. So remember to make time each day to talk about non-arthritis related topics. This will help your child feel like a “regular” kid.