Monday, July 14, 2014

5 Tips on Helping a Parent with Chronic Pain or Illness: A Guestpost & Giveaway by Elizabeth M. Cristy

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.
 

14 comments:

Allison said...

I'm the mommy of a bright and busy two-year old and I have EDS-H, fibro, and arthritis. I would love to win this book!
abitterknitterATgmailDOTcom

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your wisdom and "ninja" moves. Even typing your story and sharing it is a bold move when chronic pain is a part of your life. I feel like there is so little out there about the parenting side of chronic pain, like why I always am tired and why bedtime sometimes feels like a fight for survival (if you don't go to bed, when can I go to bed?!). I have a 4 and 6 year old and an amazing partner. Both of these blogs will be added to my collection of tools that give me hope, support, and ideas. Thank you both. liora.brosbeATgmailDOTcom

Pony said...

Wonderful post! I've recently become a mum through fostering (and hopefully adopting!), and while it is the most amazing and enriching thing I have ever done, it is certainly challenging as a woman with a disability. I would love to have this book to read with my little munchkin!

Anonymous said...

I have Mixed Connective Tissue Disease, which takes its toll on my body and my family. My 5 year old son is always asking me why I can't join in on certain things, or why I sleep so much. I would love to be able to read him this book! Thank you so much!
kbmcneeley@hotmail.com

Anonymous said...

I have had chronic fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue since I was 13 - 25 years ago! Now I'm a mother with a 9 yo and a 5 yo, with a loving husband and a supportive family, but I'd love to read this to the children to help expand their understanding and openly express how they feel. Thank you for your hard work!
sam.hc.elegance@gmail.com

~Michelle~ said...

Beauty book! Being a mom, grandma, and a great grandmother, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia 20 years ago. Having two sons being a college student and working wasn't easy, but I had to care for them and explain why I was on pain .Although they fully didn't understand I appreciate the fact that in spite of their age they did help me out in assisting with chores and was supportive. Now that they're adults and reside in different states I live alone and still explain to them about chronic pain, and what my life is like now. They still don't fully understand why I'm not better. Education and effective communication is everlasting no matter what age a child is, as a parents I still must explain my condition as it frequently changes. I must continue to stay strong and care for myself. Living alone isn't easy, and I've also noticed I must educate adults that are in my life. Chronic pain is real and it's difficult on children having to be caretakers, I certainly give all parents a 'job well done' in teaching your children about Living with pain...and I wish everyone well.

Melissa G said...

Number 1 and Number 5 are huge for me. People ask all the time how they can help and I always say if they are going to somewhere fun, invite my kids (I'll pay their way). It isn't so much that I need the break as I don't want my kids missing out on fun things because I am not well. Education is key too. I often get " You don't look sick". I know the person means well,, but if they were truly educated on chronic illness/pain they wouldn't say that. Thank you for writing this and for writing your book. I would love to win a copy of your book.

Rachel said...

Thank you so much for this post. I'm in tears now.... somebody gets it! I am very fortunate to have some wonderful people who support me, but still, life with a 3 year old is very challenging when you're housebound and physically unable to carry out even basic care needs for her. This was so not what I had dreamed and hoped her childhood would be like (I got I'll after I had her). The book sounds amazing. I'm so glad to have found this post and will be adding, at very least, a link to it from my blog. Thank you x higgles1978 at yahoo dot com

Jackie Ray said...

With RA and fibromyalgia I welcome any of these things and have wonderful friends who do. I am blessed.

Kerry said...

Hi. I was diagnosed with stills disease, juvenile idiopathic arthritis at 8yrs old. I'm now 39 with a beautiful one year old. I'd love a copy of your book, to help me, my husband and my little girl. I'm still struggling and trying to 'have it all' I knew it would be hard. Maybe your book can help me start the conversation with others ascwell as gelp my little girl.

Becky Johnson said...

What a wonderful book giveaway and great tips! My older kids understand well but the little one's not so much. I have FM and Lupus and am so excited by this book! I am a 36yr old mom of 6 and struggle with what I used to be everyday but also very proud of what I do accomplish..My email is rsailorjohnson at AOL DOT com

Anonymous said...

What an amazing idea. It's hard to explain to adults. So to find a way to explain it to our kids and through a book it allows us to spend quality time with them even when we are in severe pain. My email is jpolhamus@yahoo.com

Anonymous said...

What a great idea. I would love to have a copy for my 4 year old.

PotomacFalls Mama said...

Kerry, you won! Please respond with your email address!