Amanda Stewart is a freelance writer. One of her main objectives with her writing is to simply help others. In the article below, Amanda sat down with her mother, who has multiple sclerosis, to gain insight on parenting with a disability.
Living with a challenging, complicated, and wholly unpredictable disease like multiple sclerosis (MS) can be tough to navigate, no matter what, but this is especially true if you’re a mother. Parents living with MS may be wondering how much they should disclose to their children (and how to broach the subject in the first place), along with how they should best take care of themselves and their children during this difficult phase of life. Here are eight tried-and-true tips for parenting with MS:
Honesty is the Best Policy
Though you may be tempted to skirt the subject and “protect” your children by not telling them about your diagnosis and what it means, this isn’t the right course of action. Open, honest communication is extremely valuable in this situation; it’s important to provide your kids with accurate information about what you’re going through. Make sure your children understand that there may be days when you can’t take them to school or to the park to play, and be honest with them about the symptoms you may experience.
Not sure how or what to say to your kids? The National Multiple Sclerosis Society offers plenty of helpful materials on this very subject.
Whether it’s packing lunches, laying out clothes the night before, buying in bulk at the grocery store, or stocking up on other household supplies in advance, it’s crucial to plan ahead if you’re a parent dealing with MS. The unpredictability of MS can be taxing, so planning ahead (even in small ways) can make a huge, positive difference in your life and your kids’ lives.
Have Activities in Mind and Encourage Your Children’s Sense of Independence
It can also be helpful to have a stash of activities (board games, new toys, an iPad, books, movies) at the ready, just in case you need your kids to be able to occupy themselves for a while.
Encouraging children to be self-sufficient and independent is important for all parents to remember, but this is especially important if you’re a parent with MS. Even younger kiddos can be given age-appropriate chores, and older kids can probably pitch in more than they already do.
Adaptability is important when you’re facing an MS diagnosis — learning how to roll with the punches (last-minute canceled plans, suddenly not feeling well, not being able to do what you used to) will get you far.
Don’t Be Afraid to Delegate
Don’t be afraid to delegate tasks to older children or other family members, for that matter. Delegating tasks and encouraging self-sufficiency in your children will give you more time and energy to be with your family, and more time and energy to take care of yourself, which brings us to our next all-important tip.
Engage in Self-Care
Taking care of yourself during this time is crucial, too. It’s easy to let your needs fall by the wayside when you’re dealing with MS, but self-care is critical during this time. This can take on many forms. Maybe you want to find an exercise that works for you, find clothes that you feel most comfortable in when moving around or if you are able to work out more often.
Maybe you want to take a hot bubble bath every night, read a new novel, go on a daily morning walk, or splurge on a skincare item you’ve been coveting. Whatever self-care looks like for you, don’t let these mini-rituals fall away. When you’re diagnosed with MS, taking care of yourself becomes more important than ever.
Find Time to Smile
MS can introduce some incredibly tough things into your life, to say the least. And while you shouldn’t be afraid to feel anger, sadness, or other not-so-fun emotions (in fact, it’s important to do so), you also shouldn’t be afraid of experiencing joy. during this season of life. It may sound corny, but it’s true. Be sure to find time to laugh, smile, and have fun together as a family, especially if you’re feeling depressed or stuck in your grief.
Make Good Choices
Any long-term health condition like MS is bound to affect the whole family and have a big impact on your children’s lives. That’s why it’s important to be open and honest with your family, and to learn all you can about the disease so that you can communicate accurate information to your kids. Take care of yourself, plan ahead, and encourage your children’s independence, to help make things as easy as possible on everyone. No one chooses to get MS, but you can choose how you handle your diagnosis with your family. You’ve got this.
Thanks to Amanda for this original submission. If you are interested in contacting Amanda you can send her an email.
Do you have any advice for parenting with a disability? Share your story with us at AbleThrive.com!