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5 Things RA Can Teach Your Kids

Surprising ways RA can help you parent.
WebMD Feature

That doesn't sound right, does it? The last thing rheumatoid arthritis does is help anyone, least of all you as a parent or your kids, right? Some days RA can keep you from doing all the things you’d like to do. It makes it harder to open a jar of baby food, braid hair, or play catch.

But moms with arthritis -- as well as medical experts -- say you may also find that RA can teach your children important lessons as they watch you cope and learn how to help you along the way.

“I’ll often see people who are now in their 40s and 50s, who have vivid memories of being a child and their mother or father suffered from this disease,” says John Klippel, MD, president and CEO of the Arthritis Foundation. “They’re now involved with the Foundation as donors or volunteers, simply because they remember what their mom or dad went through and what it meant for them to have rheumatoid arthritis.”

Here are some of the "life lessons" that your kids may learn from your RA:

Can RA Teach Your Kids To Be Selfless?

The volunteers and donors Klippel regularly works with learned early on that there are people in pain and people who need help. Their childhood memories have inspired them to get personally involved with a cause that means a lot to them. “I think it teaches kids the importance of walking in someone else’s shoes, and wanting to make a difference in the lives of others,” Klippel says. “There’s a great opportunity for kids in a family affected by RA to see life through the eyes of somebody else.”

How RA Can Teach Empathy

Keri Cawthorne, a fitness instructor in Vermont, was diagnosed with RA last year and has seen its impact on her 10-year-old daughter. “She’s very concerned for me, and about the fact that I have to be on medicine for the rest of my life,” she says. “She’s a ballplayer and when we throw the ball outside, she’s always careful to make sure she doesn’t hurt me. She’s always asking me if my hands and feet are sore and if she can rub them.”

Katie Anderson’s 5-year-old daughter Delaney has always lived with her mother’s RA. “I was diagnosed six years before she was born,” says Anderson, who retired as a flight attendant because her travel schedule made her disease worse. She's now a real estate agent. “She’s so compassionate, and I think it’s partly because of what she sees me go through. She hates to see anyone in pain, and whenever someone else is crying, she cries too.”

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