Parenting when you live in pain can be more than a pain. In addition to the physical challenges, like maybe not being able to always engage in the manner you envisioned, there’s also the emotional struggle with the difference between your imagined idea of parenthood and the reality. With each new phase of your child’s life comes a different hurdle in how to best support them while you’re hurting.
How do you manage raising baby, toddler and preschool- aged children while living with chronic pain? Here are some ideas to share to kick-off your brainstorming.
Pain can make you feel stagnant, depressed, and flat out exhausted. This chronic fatigue can make it seem daunting to function much less be creative. Ironically though, incorporating play, spontaneity, and creativity has been proven to activate different parts of the brain in ways that decrease pain levels. Several studies over the past 5 years have shown that playing virtual reality games significantly reduce pain levels for regular participants.
Luckily, if you have children in your life, you do not need an expensive virtual reality setup. Children are perpetually creating their own wildly creative virtual realities, for free. Whether it is a game of hide and seek, an impromptu muffin bake, or a scavenger hunt around the block — or from bed, playing with children not only benefits them but will likely reduce your pain as well.
Art therapy has long been an established tool used for chronic pain. However, if you are like many you may not consider yourself an artist. That is where children come in! Children are inherently drawn to artistic expression without the judgment that we as adults have learned to attach to our skills. Adults sometimes avoid drawing because “they feel they can only draw stick figures.” Children literally can only draw stick figures. And they love it! Whether it’s a dance party, a puppet show, or a simple craft project, follow your child’s lead and partner with them to artistically express how you are feeling. Your pain level will benefit.
Yoga at a fancy yoga studio can be overwhelming, especially if you have chronic pain. The poses can be daunting. The instructors uber fit. The costs can be exorbitant. In-step children! Children love yoga. And they could care less whether they are doing it “right” much less you are doing it “right.” There are several free yoga for children video channels on Youtube that walk children through stories by way of yoga poses. They are fun for adults as well. And since the poses are designed for children and you can do them for free in your living room you do not have to be concerned about things like judgment from others over difficult plank poses! Check out Cosmic Kid Yoga on YouTube.
5-minute Self Compassion Break
Here is the often glossed over truth. Parenting is a hard job. Like really, really hard. And frustrating. And exhausting. And often thankless. Since this is often not acknowledged in our cultures, sometimes it can lead to emotions like guilt, anger, and sadness. It is important for those with chronic pain to be able to safely process those emotions without speaking to your inner self too harshly. Because, if you “beat yourself up” in your head there is a good chance your brain may be “beating yourself up” in your body. A quick, parent-friendly tool to develop kindness for yourself is Dr. Kristin Neff’s 5 minute self-compassion break.