How Is Chronic Pain Affecting My Child?
Globally, 20% to 35% of young people live with chronic pain. Pain’s negative physical effects hamper comfort and physical ability, which can lead to emotional and social detriments. Being in pain makes completing daily tasks feel impossible and sometimes makes it extremely difficult to communicate with friends and family. Because of this, many people living in pain end up feeling afraid, depressed, and isolated.
How Does Pain Affect Family Members?
Chronic pain has a way of impacting the patient and their support network. Parents and siblings may feel upset and frustrated. They may need to change their lifestyle, seek outside support, or learn new methods of self-care. Because family members tend to be so emotionally connected, it is necessary to develop a coping strategy that addresses the needs of the entire family.
As a Parent, What Should I Do?
Being the primary caregiver of a child experiencing chronic pain is no simple task. Parents of chronic pain patients often experience a slew of emotions regarding their situation. Feeling this way is entirely reasonable, normal, and expected.
For anyone to successfully provide support to another person, self-care is critical and parents are no exception. Although parents might want to put all of their energy into helping their child, caregivers first need to take care of themselves. By staying positive, seeking support, and developing healthy habits, parents can encourage their children to do the same.
Unfortunately, parents’ first intuitions don’t always lead to the most effective form of encouragement. Although unconditional support may be perfect when a child is in crisis, a child experiencing persistent pain requires a very different type of support. First and foremost, a child should know that they are in control and capable of independence. Because children are incredibly perceptive of their parents’ feelings and expectations, a parent’s outlook will influence the way their child perceives pain and their ability to regain normality.
Practicing stress reduction, mindfulness, and other psychological interventions will be extremely helpful for both you and your child. In addition, encouraging your child to return to their normal routine is very important. Although children in pain may prefer to stay home from school, sleep during the day, and stay sedentary, these behaviors generally end up making them feel worse. There are a number of effective methods that can be used by parents to help their children increase their ability to perform daily tasks.
Although finding a balance between challenging and supporting a child in pain may often feel like a daunting task, these methods ensure that the child receives both the push and the support that they need.
Parental Support Resources:
Emily McDowell has a series of empathy cards for people who have serious illnesses.
One of my favorites reads:
Please let me be the first person to punch the next person who says that everything happens for a reason.
Authoritative vs. Authoritarian Parenting Styles
In response to the indictment of NFL player Adrian Peterson for child abuse, essayist Michael Eric Dyson wrote a thoughtful piece about the roots of corporal punishment within the American Black community.
Among many insights is the following quote:
“The point of discipline is to transmit values to children. The purpose of punishment is to coerce compliance and secure control, and failing that, to inflict pain as a form of revenge . ..”
The Comfort Ability
The Coalition Against Pediatric Pain: Parent’s Talk Blog
Additional Resources for Families:
American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
The TEACh-Pain Project
1 Friedrichsdorf, Stefan J et al. “Chronic Pain in Children and Adolescents: Diagnosis and Treatment of Primary Pain Disorders in Head, Abdomen, Muscles and Joints.” Children (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 3,4 42. 10 Dec. 2016, doi:10.3390/children3040042
2Palermo, T., & Law, E. (2015-06). Managing Your Child’s Chronic Pain. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
3Zeltzer, L. K., & Schlank, C. B. (2005). Conquering Your Child’s Chronic Pain: A Pediatricians Guide for Reclaiming a Normal Childhood. New York: Harper Resource.
4Palermo, T., & Law, E. (2015-06).
5Coakley, Rachael. (2016). When Your Child Hurts: Effective Strategies to Increase Comfort, Reduce Stress, and Break the Cycle of Chronic Pain.
6Zeltzer, L. K., & Schlank, C. B. (2005).
7Ruskin, D., Campbell, L., Stinson, J., & Ahola Kohut, S. (2018). Changes in Parent Psychological Flexibility after a One-Time Mindfulness-Based Intervention for Parents of Adolescents with Persistent Pain Conditions. 5(9), 121. https://doi.org/doi:10.3390/children5090121
8Coakley, Rachael. (2016).
The 1step2life team is writing away, providing the best content and resources we can to help teens in pain and their families. Check back soon.