5 Tips to Help You Cope When Caring for a Child with Arthritis
There’s no doubt that parenting a child with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA) or another chronic illness can be challenging. Here are some tips from Kelly Rouba-Boyd, author of Juvenile Arthritis: The Ultimate Teen Guide and 2nd Vice President of the Arthritis National Research Foundation’s Board of Directors. Kelly was diagnosed with JIA at the age of two and today, as a mom to five-year-old stepsons, has insight on the disorder from both perspectives.
- Build your own support network. While it can be beneficial to attend support group meetings set up by local hospitals or arthritis organizations, be sure to establish your own support network as well. A personal support network should include people who have experience dealing with juvenile idiopathic arthritis. From medical professionals to individuals living with the disease, people with experience can prove invaluable when you are in need of emotional support or advice on your child’s healthcare. Keep in mind that these individuals might also have simple solutions to what might seem like insurmountable problems.
- Educate yourself.Keep up-to-date on the latest medical advances and assistive devices and technology. You are your child’s best advocate. It’s important to keep yourself in the loop when it comes to dealing with JIA as it will help you to obtain the best care for your child. Rouba-Boyd recommends curearthritis.org and creakjoints.org to families. Both websites are chock full of news and research updates, the latest science, advocacy tips, resources and more.
- Make time for yourself. Take time to re-energize every day in a stress-free environment. It's smart to turn to family members or trusted friends who are aware of your child’s needs and are able to step in when you feel maxed out and in need of a break. JIA can be a demanding disease. Caring for yourself as you care for others can spark up your caregiving battery.
- Include your child in discussions with doctors. It can be easy to get caught up in doing what doctors think is best for your child and unintentionally overlook the patient. Doing this can cause your child to become scared and closed off because his voice isn’t being heard. Be sure to discuss your child’s healthcare with him, as appropriate, and let your child share his feelings or offer suggestions. Including your child will help him feel that you have his best interests at heart and go a long way toward keeping your relationship strong.
- Consider seeking guidance from a counselor or life coach. Trying to help your child cope with juvenile idiopathic arthritis can be emotionally and physically draining at times. Counselors can help you deal with your emotions and offer strategies for handling any problems that come your way. If you don't want to see a counselor/therpaist, consider meeting with a life coach. Life coaches can also provide advice on how to deal with stressful situations, and can aid you in developing a plan for the future.
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