Living with Chronic Pain
When Both Parent and Child Have Chronic Pain
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for a child of a parent with chronic pain to have chronic pain or chronic illness. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, some chronic conditions are hereditary, meaning that one or both parents can pass down a condition to their child. Also, studies show that children of parents with chronic pain report more pain than children of parents without pain, even in the absence of a hereditary condition.
When a child develops chronic pain or a chronic illness, it is natural for parents to experience stress and various emotions, such as sadness, anger or guilt. Stress can worsen pain or negatively impact health, which can affect the parent-child relationship. Therefore, it is important for parents to take care of their own mental well-being by practicing relaxation techniques for stress management or seeking the assistance of a counselor or therapist if needed.
Parents may also neglect their own chronic condition, prioritizing the care of their child’s condition. While their child certainly needs adequate medical care, parents should also be vigilant about their own medical appointments, home treatments, and self-care to best take care of their child.
In some ways, parents with chronic pain are uniquely positioned to care for a child with a chronic condition. They can empathize with the child and can suggest distraction techniques and home remedies to help manage the child’s pain. Because of the parent’s own personal experience, they can often effectively navigate the medical system and know what questions to ask physicians.
However, parents with chronic pain may also struggle to care for a child with a chronic condition. At times, their own pain, fatigue, or other related symptoms can make it difficult to provide for a child’s needs. Parents with chronic pain should have a back-up caregiver, such as a family member or friend, to help when pain levels are high or fatigue is overwhelming. This is especially helpful for single parents or if both parents have chronic pain or a chronic illness. Friends or family members are often happy to help with getting groceries or delivering a home-cooked meal. Others may be willing to babysit for a few hours or even take the child overnight to give the parent a break. It is important to provide back-up caregivers with important information such as medication schedules and physicians’ phone numbers.
Although parenting a child with a chronic condition when one or both parents also deals with a chronic condition is challenging, it is absolutely possible with the right preparation and care.
Additional source: The New York Times