Daily Living

Parenting with arthritis

A man holding his son, view from the back, on a beach

Tips for overcoming arthritis symptoms while caring for children

Many children have endless energy. Keeping up with their busy lifestyles can be a challenge, even when someone is feeling their best. For people who live with chronic pain and fatigue from arthritis, the demands of parenting can seem close to impossible at times. It's difficult to remain upbeat and playful when pain can cloud your enjoyment, but one of the wonderful things about children is that they are quick to appreciate the simple pleasures in life. Remember, your limitations are always most noticeable and felt by you.

Here are a few helpful tips and words of encouragement for living and parenting well with arthritis.

Focus on what you CAN do.

While physical pain and disability can easily get you down, stay positive by focusing on what you can do, rather than what you can’t do.

If your child is asking for you to play with them in a way that’s too difficult, such as chasing them in a game of tag, be honest about why you can’t and offer an alternative. "I can't run today...but I can tickle you!" Or, depending on your ability that day, suggest another activity that you can enjoy together such as art and crafts, listening to a podcast, or a nature walk, if feasible.

Get your kids involved in your physical exercise.

Physiotherapy and exercise are often a key part of managing arthritis, but daily practice can be very time consuming. Make time to take care of yourself by involving your kids. Get some music going and lead your kids in an exercise class so you can do your exercises, or practice yoga together. There are great yoga videos available that are geared to children which include gentle and simple movements. Turning exercise into something fun rather than a chore is a great way for you to have fun with your children and take care of yourself.

Get your kids moving, even if you can't.

It can be difficult dealing with a flareup or stiffness and immobility when children have a need for physical activity. Even with reduced mobility, you can still facilitate and participate in physical play with your children. For example, the game Simon Says is a fun way to encourage your kids to get moving and play along with them as 'Simon'.  To play, explain to your children that when you say “Simon says” and state an action, such as “Simon says touch your toes,” they should do the action.  But if you state an action and don’t say “Simon says,” if you just say “Touch your toes,” the child is “out” of the game if they perform the action.  Repeat this as many times as you’d like, with different actions.  You could also help create an obstacle course anywhere, even in your living room. While you rest, you can time them as they race through the obstacles they created.

Don't let guilt get the better of you.

Guilty feelings can be intensified when parenting with a chronic condition like arthritis. Even if you find ways to manage, there will still be times your child may feel disappointed that you are not able to play with them as they would like.  Be honest and acknowledge the reason and your mutual disappointment when there is something that you cannot do with them or for them.  You will be amazed at how adaptable and understanding your child will be to the situation.

Accept help and seek it when you need it.

Rely on whatever support you have. Accept offers of playdates or childminding - anything that allows you to have extra time to take care of yourself. That is never something to feel badly about!

Ask your kids for help.

Little ones often jump at the opportunity to feel big. Involving them with daily tasks can be fun and build their confidence and independence.

Embrace bedtimes.

Reading before bedtime is a great way to connect with your children that is less physically demanding . Embrace this quality time you can spend with your child. Don’t forget your own bedtime too. Getting enough sleep is crucial in taking care of yourself and your child.

Look at limitations as opportunities.

As difficult as it may be, this simple change of perspective can open a world of possibility even within your physical limitations.  Have you learned new ways of doing things?  Has your arthritis taught you a greater appreciation for the simple things in life?  Think about ways in which you have learned and grown from overcoming your challenges.

Written by Yvonne Wallace