Parenting Through the Pain
While you keep the lines of communication open with your child, you also need to develop strategies that allow you to be as active a parent as possible while not pushing yourself so hard that the pain further debilitates you.
The most important thing to remember, Lowry says, is that your time and attention are more important than any activities you can do with your child.
“I felt terrible because I couldn’t take my sons to Disneyland for awhile,” she says. “But every day, I tried to shower, have makeup on, and look halfway decent when they got home. Even if I couldn’t go downstairs and sit on the couch, they could come upstairs and sit on the bed with me and talk to me about their day.”
Sisk, Lowry and other experts who’ve been there recommend a few strategies for making sure pain doesn’t interfere with your parenting:
- Plan. If Sisk knew her daughter had a big dance recital coming up, she’d take it easy for several days ahead of time and asked the dance teacher to let Kayleigh leave the night-before rehearsal immediately after her number, so Sisk could rest. “Think of it like a bank: make deposits so you can be ready to make a withdrawal on a certain day,” she says.
- Pre-medicate, if necessary. “If you know you’re going to need to be more active on a given day, take some medication ahead of time -- don’t let the pain get too hot to cool down,” says David Rosenfeld, MD, a pain specialist with the Atlanta Pain Center. “There are also very good fast-acting medications out there for breakthrough pain.” Some are absorbed through the mucosa of your cheek and kick in much faster than even a ‘fast-acting’ pain pill.”
- Focus on what you can do, rather than what you can’t. “I can’t go roller-skating and rock-climbing with my daughter, but I can go and watch her,” Sisk says. “I can walk the dog with her and swim, even though I can’t do it for very long.”
- Look at what’s causing the pain and find strategies to alleviate it. “For instance, if your son plays basketball and by the end of two hours in the bleachers you’re in horrible pain, try little tricks to minimize it,” says David Kloth, MD, founder of Connecticut Pain Care in Danbury, Conn. “Alternate sitting and standing, or go out to the car at halftime and sit on a softer surface. Or only come for the second half of the game.”
- Get some help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help -- from your family, your friends, your church, your community groups. If you know other parents with chronic pain, trade days -- you take the kids on a day when I feel lousy, and I’ll do the same for you.