Do I have a treat for you today! A wonderfully informative guest post by Elizabeth M.Christy's a.k.a. The PotomacFalls Mama on what you can do to help that friend or member of your family who is parenting with a chronic illness. And! A giveaway of her excellent new book Why Does Mommy Hurt? Helping Children Cope with the Challenges of Having a Caregiver with Chronic Pain, Fibromyalgia, or Autoimmune Disease. It's a terrific tool to start conversations about chronic pain and chronic illness with young children. She writes a blog for parents with chronic pain and disease: parentswithpain.com. Elizabeth is a autoimmune disease and Fibromyalgia "ninja," and lives in Sterling, VA with her growing family. She also runs the non-profit "Books and Bottles," supporting needy children and infants.
More on how to enter the giveaway at the end of this post. Here's Elizabeth...
I am a 32 year old mother living with severe chronic pain stemming from autoimmune disease. I am unable to clean my house, care for my garden, and I also need a lot of helping caring for my 3 year old son, Jimmy (pictured with me, credit: Becky A. Gardner Photography). As a mom, I want to give him the world- take him to interesting places, go on hikes, pick him up and squeeze him.. but unfortunately, I am routinely unable to do many of even the most basic tasks of parenting. If you have a friend, neighbor or family member in the same situation, there are many simple things that you can do to help them; and earn their deepest gratitude in the process.
1. Offer to take the children on outings.
Children learn by exploring their environment. When a parent has chronic pain or illness, they are likely unable to regularly do “special” activities with their child, or even basics, like simply walking their child to the playground, or pushing them on the swing. Make outings and “special” trips - family friendly farms, museums, markets, fairs, nature walks.. anything that gets the child out of the house and doing something active! Take pictures on your phone during the activity. When you’re done; write a short note about the joyful time the kids had, and share photos. Hearing about their children’s experiences; even if they weren’t able to share them, is something that will be treasured and remembered; for years to come.
2. Stop by and help around the house
Picking up toys is probably the most difficult chore for a parent with chronic pain or illness. Even if they have a house cleaning service, children, as you know, can tear a room apart in a matter of minutes! Parents may be embarrassed at the state of their house, so don’t push it. However, if you stop by for a visit, and non-chalantly start unloading the dishwasher, or picking up some toys, chances are the parent won’t argue too forcefully. *Pulling up weeds may also make a parent weep tears of gratitude!
3. Stop by with nutritious meals
No parent would refuse a home cooked meal brought to their doorstep! Cooking can be a huge challenge, and many parents feel guilty at not being able to regularly cook nutritious meals for their family. Click here for some healthy, anti-inflammatory recipes!
4. Offer to pick up groceries
Making a trip to the grocery store can be a massive undertaking for anyone with chronic pain, doubly for those with young children! It often takes days to recover from the energy expenditure. If you’re at the grocery store, call them up and ask if you can pick anything up for them. Another great idea? Ask if they could use help watching the kids while they go to the store themselves. A trip to the store alone is much easier to handle when there are no surprise tantrums, aisle clean-ups, or fights over candy!
5. Educate yourself, listen and support.
Google the condition that the parent has, so you can better understand how to help them. Demonstrate your support: People with chronic pain and illness often are afraid to be seen as “complainers,” or to be judged to be “a burden,” or “lazy.” Make it clear that you believe their pain is real (chronic pain is often invisible; the parent may look completely healthy). Ask them how they’re feeling that day, and if there’s anything special that you can do to help them. Having someone that truly listens is pure gold to someone with chronic pain or illness. Support the children. Encourage them to talk about their parents illness; ask them how they feel, and validate them. The children may have feelings of sadness, or even anger. Read them books like “Why Does Mommy Hurt? Helping Children Cope with the Challenges of having a Parent or Caregiver with Chronic Pain, Fibromyalgia, or Autoimmune Disease.” Opening up communication in the family about a parents condition is another gift that could last a lifetime!
To enter the giveaway and qualify to win a copy of Why Does Mommy Hurt?, leave a comment below. Make sure you include your contact information in the text of the comment like this youremailATdomanDOTetc. If you win and there isn't a way to reach you, I'll have to draw for another winner. Leave your comment by 6 PM ET on Sunday, July 20, 2014. Winner will be announced on Monday, July 21.