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Parenting with arthritis

It can be a challenging task, but you can manage parenting and arthritis at the same time.

Parents have many challenges to face when raising a child. But having a chronic disease, such as arthritis, can make parenting seem like an especially daunting task.

However, arthritis doesn't have to keep you from being an active, involved parent. By carefully managing your symptoms, keeping a positive attitude and adding in a little creative parenting, you can give your child all the love and care he or she needs.

Improvise a little

Parenting entails a thousand and one details, some of which can be complicated by an arthritis flare-up. You may face some particular challenges.

Getting enough rest. Arthritis can make you feel very tired. Add to that the demands of a child, especially a newborn, and fatigue takes on a whole new meaning.

One way to stay rested is to heed that tried-and-true advice given to all parents: Take advantage of the times your baby is napping by getting some rest yourself.

"Take regular breaks to relax," says W. Hayes Wilson, MD, former board member of the Arthritis Foundation. You should try to lie down and rest a few times a day. Even if you can't sleep, at least take the chance to relax, rest and give your muscles a chance to recover, he says.

Also conserve your energy as much as possible, advises Dr. Wilson. That might include simple measures such as having your older children help with the laundry or planning your daily routine to avoid unnecessary trips up and down the stairs.

Caring for an infant. The early years, when your child depends on you for everything from eating to bathing, may be the toughest if you have active arthritis. You might try some of these tips:

  • Choose baby clothes that are easy to fasten. Zippers might be easier to manage than rows of tiny snaps.
  • Test car seats, high chairs and other equipment before you buy to make sure you can easily operate buckles, latches and other fasteners.
  • When your baby starts solid foods, have someone loosen the lids on baby food jars—loosen a few jars at a time and store them in the refrigerator until needed.
  • Select diapers that are easy to fasten. Consider disposable diapers with simple fasteners or cloth diapers with Velcro tabs rather than snaps.

Ask for help

"Arthritis is a disease that really affects the whole family," Dr. Wilson says.

There may be times when you need to get help with the housework. Or you may not be able to hold your child comfortably. There may be times when your child wants to play catch, but the best you can manage is sitting and reading a storybook together.

Above all, don't be afraid to ask for help. Your friends and family will probably be happy to help if only you ask.

Communicate

As your kids get older, it's important to talk to them about your condition.

"Kids are resilient, and kids understand this stuff," says Dr. Wilson.

Communicate openly about arthritis and the changes it brings to your family. Your children can learn valuable lessons from the way they see you handling your difficulties.

Care for yourself

Don't forget to care for yourself. By staying physically, mentally and emotionally healthy, you'll be better able to meet the demands of parenting.

Reviewed 1/19/2021

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