Living with Chronic Pain
How to Explain Chronic Pain to Your Children
Children notice and absorb more information than most people realize. This is especially true when it comes to the well-being of their parents. When a parent has chronic pain, avoiding discussions about the topic may increase a child’s tension and worry. Explaining the situation to your children is important, but it is often difficult to know how much to divulge and how to approach the topic.
Six tips for explaining chronic pain to children include the following:
- Be honest. Talking openly about your chronic pain with your children can help reduce stress and fear of the unknown. For younger children, simply saying that you hurt is most appropriate. For older children, while it is still best to avoid overwhelming them with details, sharing the name of the condition and some facts about it is often appropriate. Being honest about how chronic pain affects your ability to do certain things that other parents can do is also helpful.
- For younger children, use a picture book to initiate a discussion. Picture books pictures with child-friendly language about chronic pain or other health conditions such as fibromyalgia can help children understand the concept of chronic health conditions. Reading a book aloud and relating it to your situation helps make the concept of chronic pain more understandable.
- Give children the opportunity to ask questions. After you explain chronic pain, children may have general questions or questions about how the situation will affect them. If you ask a child a simple “yes” or “no” question like, “Do you have any questions about my pain?,” they may simply say “no.” Asking open-ended questions such as, “What questions do you have about my pain?” can help initiate a discussion.
- For older children, consider taking them with you to an appointment with your physician. If your child has questions that are difficult to answer or if they want reassurance from a medical professional, taking them with you to a medical appointment gives them the opportunity to get their questions and concerns answered.
- Provide reassurance. Children need stability and security. Any fears of a parent’s death or abandonment should be addressed. Children should also be reassured that their parent’s condition is not contagious.
- Explain as often as needed. It is unlikely that children will be able to grasp the concept of chronic pain after just one conversation. Being patient with your children and explaining the situation as often as needed increases their knowledge and provides additional reassurance.
Additional resource: Comprehensive Pain Institute