Arthritis is often misconstrued as a disease that affects the elderly, but it is something that many children suffer with. Referred to as juvenile arthritis, it makes raising a child different for parents than raising a child who does not suffer from autoimmune and/or inflammatory diseases. While not all forms of juvenile arthritis are the same, you may wonder how you are supposed to approach parenting when your child faces a life of pain. What’s important is that you consider your child’s arthritis a part of his life, but not the focal point.
Encourage your child to get plenty of exercise and work her joints and muscles often, advises Ann Marie Rakowicz, Registered Nurse in the Division of Rheumatology at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. When your child continues to use her joints and muscles on a regular basis, she can control the amount of pain she is in because this prevents her muscles from becoming stiff from lack of use.
Monitor your child carefully when he uses pain medications to help with the pain of living with arthritis. According to the Arthritis Foundation, all children respond differently to the medications doctors provide for pain management for arthritis. Medication that may help significantly with the pain another child feels may make your child feel nauseous or sick; monitoring him carefully can help minimize the side effects and help your child’s doctor create a more effective treatment method.
Make sure your child gets a healthy mix of rest and activity, advises KidsHealth. Everyone needs rest for optimal health, but children with juvenile arthritis need rest just as much. It is recommended that you come up with a good daily plan that involves plenty of rest and plenty of physical activity so that your child experiences the least amount of pain possible. Swimming is an ideal activity that helps your child work her muscles, and warm baths can help her to rest and relax her muscles and joints. Try to encourage both as often as possible.
Keep your life as familiar and unchanged as possible. According to the Arthritis Foundation, it’s easy to assume that you have to change your entire lifestyle once your child is diagnosed with juvenile arthritis, but it is not a good idea. Your child’s arthritis is part of your life, but it is not your entire life. Keeping your schedule as familiar as possible and making as few changes as possible can help your family deal with the stress of living with juvenile arthritis, which can lower the risk of depression, unhappiness and family conflict.
Keep an eye on any children you have who do not have arthritis. They may, according to the Arthritis Foundation, suffer from guilt over not having arthritis like their sibling, which could cause them to feel clingy, depressed, unhappy or even angry. Counseling is always an option if you think your child would benefit from it.