Living with Chronic Pain
Parenting With Chronic Pain: How to Ask for Help
Parents with chronic pain may need to ask for help on occasion, and asking for help can be uncomfortable. Uncertainty of how to approach the topic or fear of being a burden may cause a parent to shy away from asking others for the help they need. However, asking for and receiving help can significantly reduce the difficulties of parenting with chronic pain and helps ensure that the children receive the best care possible.
Eight tips that may make it a bit easier to ask for help include the following:
- Identify what would help the most. Make a list of challenging tasks and prioritize which tasks present the greatest need.
- Think about who may be able to help. Think about who may be willing and available to help. Consider their strengths, talents, and schedules. Ask multiple people to help with different tasks, depending on their abilities.
- Prepare as much as possible before asking. For example, if a child needs transportation to participate in an extracurricular activity (e.g., soccer practices, piano lessons, etc.) make sure to have specific information (e.g., days, times, location, etc.) readily available before asking someone to assume the task. Before asking someone for help with grocery shopping, estimate how many items need to be purchased and prepare how payment will be exchanged.
- Explain the reason for the ask. People who have not experienced chronic pain may not understand the need for assistance. Explain how pain prevents your participation in certain activities or how a pain medication makes certain activities, such as driving or cooking, unsafe. However, there is no need to apologize for asking for help. Everyone needs help at one time or another.
- Be clear and specific about the request. Make sure you provide specific information about what help is needed, when and where it is needed, and approximately how much time it will take. Asking a question like, “Would you mind watching my child at your home next Tuesday from 1 to 3 p.m. so I can go to a medical appointment? ” is more specific than saying, “Would you mind watching my child while I have an appointment next week?”
- Give people time and space to reply. An unexpected request can sometimes catch a person off-guard. Give the person time to consider the request. For example, you could say, “Feel free to check your schedule and get back to me anytime this week.”
- Be okay with someone saying “no.” Just because a person says “no” does not mean they do not care or are unwilling to help in the future. It simply means that they are saying “no” to this particular request.
- Show gratitude. If a person is willing and able to help, heartfelt thanks for the assistance goes a long way. Express gratitude for their help. Although a thank-you card, gift, or returning the favor is not always necessary, it is a nice gesture. Sharing a specific example of how their assistance helped is also beneficial. For example, let the person know how much their help is appreciated by saying something like, “Thank you so much for watching my child while I went to my appointment! He has been talking about how much fun he had with you since we got home. It is comforting to know he was well-cared-for while I focused my attention on the conversation with my doctor!”