Living with Chronic Pain

4 Tips for Parenting Teenagers While Living With Chronic Pain


Parenting teenagers is no easy feat. Dealing with fluctuating emotions, hormonal changes, and their budding need for independence can be challenging for parents. When one or both parents of a teenager lives with chronic pain, parenting can be even more challenging.

Four suggestions for parenting teenagers when a parent has chronic pain include the following:

  1. Give them as much time and attention as possible. Teenagers may need some space, but that does not mean they do not want to spend any time with their parents. This is especially true for teenagers with a parent who has chronic pain, as they may feel distanced from the parent due to the parent’s inability to attend certain events or participate in the child’s life the same way other parents do. Asking the teenager about the high point and low point of their day, watching a video clip they recently found humorous, or learning to play a new card or board game together are all good ways to connect.
  2. Communicate about chronic pain. If a parent has had chronic pain since their teenager was a small child, they typically understand a great deal about chronic illness and chronic pain when they enter their teenage years. It is important to keep an open line of communication about chronic pain so that they can continue to ask questions or inquire about things they may read on the internet. It can be helpful to make an appointment with the parent’s physician so the teenager can ask questions that they may not feel comfortable asking their parent. Finally, teenagers may act like they do not need reassurance that their parents will be there for them; however, they are still children that require stability, and providing reassurance never hurts.
  3. Remember that they are still a child, not a caretaker. Although teenagers are physically capable of helping around the house and doing certain tasks for their parents, it is important to keep in mind that they are still a child. Teenagers can certainly do chores, and it is okay for a parent to ask for a little extra help when they are in a flare-up of pain; however, teenagers should still have plenty of time and space to focus on school, social events, and leisure activities.
  4. Be aware of any changes in their emotional well-being or unhealthy coping mechanism. Having a parent with chronic pain can add stress to an already stressful time. Teenagers may worry about causing their parent additional stress or pain. They might be on edge because their parent is irritable or unpredictable due to pain. Teenagers of parents with chronic pain are more likely to develop anxiety or depression; in some cases, they may develop unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as substance abuse. If parents notice negative emotions or suspect their child is having trouble coping, it’s important to reach out to a medical professional or another resource such as a school guidance counselor.

Additional sources: Psychology Today and The Atlantic

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