The Family Couch

Coping with Chronic Illness in the Family

The Struggle With Parenting: How to Parent with Chronic Pain

You have been told by your doctor that you have chronic pain and a chronic illness.  So now what are the next steps?  And more importantly, how will you be able to parent with chronic pain?

Coming home from the doctor’s office with a diagnosis can leave you feeling a mixture of emotions.  Perhaps the path in getting to this place with your doctor has been a long process.

Unfortunately, during this time you have struggled to be taken seriously. Additionally, getting to the bottom of what is really going on with your health has been a solo journey.

So now you find yourself at this place of being given a diagnosis. On one hand you may feel validated, but on the other hand you may also be feeling overwhelmed.

I should also mention here that the ideas shared in this post come from my own learning experiences.  As a person with chronic illness, these thoughts have come together from my own health and pain journey.    It is from this point of view that I share ways of coping so that you can take care of your own health needs while still staying connected to your child.

Expectations of Life as a Parent With Chronic Pain

What expectations have you set up for yourself as a parent with chronic pain?

How involved are you as a parent?  How are you able to parent with chronic pain?

There are only so many hours in the day and with chronic pain and illness, it seems like the days become shorter.

Are the days getting shorter or is it actually just taking you longer to get things done?

Trying to keep up at the pace you have maintained may no longer be an option.

This can be a rude awakening when you let it sink in that what you want to do might not match where your health is now.  Your body may not allow you to do all that you have done in the past.  

This realization may make you feel stuck.  It feels like a weight on your shoulders. You even find that it is hard to get this worry out of your mind.

There is the possibility that the chronic pain and illness symptoms will get better.  Perhaps right now the severe symptoms will only last a few months.  It’s possible that after some time has passed, you begin to feel better and better.  In fact, you start to feel like your old self again.

Regardless of what happens with your health, allowing yourself to express how you feel is key.  Self-expression and communication are so important in managing chronic pain.  Also, having a support system is another part of this process.

So maybe you are feeling powerless right now.  However, by taking action with your health and self care, you are taking back control over your healing process.

Adding in a support network to help with your physical and emotional health can help you see that parenting with chronic pain is possible.  

Learning to Adjust to Your Chronic Pain

Adjusting to life with chronic pain can be better managed with a variety of self-care approaches.  Journaling, talking to a friend, exercise, and talk therapy are all wonderful ways to feel supported and cared for.

Also having a safe place to really talk about your feelings is the most important step to feeling better and staying connected to your child.

Creating a New Action Plan as a Parent with Chronic Pain  

Creating a new game plan may mean reorganizing your day.  How much time you dedicate to work and home life will likely need to change.

More time set aside for your health needs is now a priority.

But you feel guilty about it.

As a parent, you feel that setting time aside for personal needs is selfish.  This is a myth.  

Instead, taking these steps is really a way for you to support your child while also taking care of your own health needs.  Reminding yourself of this may help you to overcome the guilt.  The guilt will also interfere with your connection to your child.  So overcoming the guilt becomes even more important since you want to stay connected to your child during this time. Keep reminding yourself that self-care is a selfless act because both the parent and child will benefit.

Taking care of yourself is the best way you can take care of your child.

You taking the time to work on your health and to address your feelings as a parent with chronic pain is the best gift you can give your child.  When your child sees that you are taking care of yourself, this is a great learning experience for them too.

It teaches them that it is good to take care of your own needs so that you can live a happier and healthier life.

Benefits of Rearranging Your Day to Address Chronic Pain

Setting time aside to rest, see doctors and process feelings can help take away the sense of overwhelm.  When a parent feels less stressed about their condition, the child will benefit from that as well.  Anxious parents can create anxious children which can lead to strained relationships.

Getting yourself into a place of feeling more calm and grounded will help you to set this example for your children.  

Getting Emotional Support So You Can Parent with Chronic Pain

Perhaps your new game plan involves reaching out to friends and family for support.  The support could be emotional support like talking with a friend at a coffee shop.  It might be spending time with someone on a short walk each week.  It also could be more time spent with extended family where your child is able to connect with their cousins, aunts and uncles and so on.

The child getting more quality time with family members and close friends helps them to get their needs met while also allowing you to do the same.

Opportunities like these help the parent get more time with other adults who are there for you in a loving and supportive way.

Asking for Help 

Setting up support systems when trying to parent with chronic pain can also extend to your neighbors.  Adding in more contact with friends in religious group and support groups can help.  Maybe you have a neighbor who offers to take your daughter to after school practice each week.  This assistance then gives you more time in the afternoon to rest and prepare dinner.  Perhaps friends in your church group take turns preparing meals for your family.  There could also be a local support group or community group of parents supporting each other who have a similar diagnosis as you.

Connecting and spending time with other adults with similar challenges can be a powerful and healing experience.

Being able to lets others in to offer you help during challenging times is helpful.  It may make you feel vulnerable but it can help you get the support you need. That vulnerability that can help to strengthen your relationships and healing potential.  Letting others in also helps you feel less isolated and alone in this experience.

More support often helps in the healing process and can lead to greater resiliency.  

To Learn More…

I write more about ways to manage chronic pain in An Open Letter to those with Chronic Illness / Pain and their Caregivers.  Also you can read about managing chronic pain in a two part series here (part 1) and here (part 2).   You can also listen here to a podcast interview where I discuss this topic in greater depth.

If you or someone you know is struggling with chronic pain and illness, or are having a difficult time with a major life change, please contact me to see how I can help.  If you live outside of California I would be happy to connect you with therapists who may be able to help.

Daniela Paolone

Daniela Paolone is a Marriage and Family Therapist and founder of Westlake Village Counseling serving residents of California and Wyoming. She helps those working through pain, illness, depression and anxiety using a secure online counseling platform ensuring client confidentiality. Using education, helpful resources, unconditional support and understanding, she strives to help people transform their pain into power so they can live their best lives!

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 10 comments
Katy Karas - April 4, 2017

Very well said. I like that the “action plan” is simple, makes sense and would be easy to implement.

    Daniela Paolone - April 4, 2017

    Thank you Kara for your feedback! The way we approach chronic pain and break it down in actionable steps can really help make the process easier.

    Alaina Terron - August 12, 2019

    I am a mother and this helped me!

    Alexa Argyle - August 15, 2019

    Thanks I am a mother and very busy! This helped me alot!

Robert Hammel - April 4, 2017

Some great thoughts here on a tough subject.

    Daniela Paolone - April 4, 2017

    Thank you Robert for sharing your thoughts. Yes it can really be a hard topic to talk about since it means the parent has to first acknowledge what is going on with their health.

In Pain - January 10, 2019

Sounds lovely to have support. Not realistic for everyone.

    Daniela Paolone - January 10, 2019

    Trying to get support can be done in creative ways but you are right that it is not feasible for everyone. Take good care Emily!


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