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When Your Child Has Arthritis – A Parent’s Guide

When you are first told that your child has arthritis, you may feel shocked, numb or guilty, asking yourself if it was something you did or didn’t do to cause your child’s arthritis.

Your child may also feel sad and confused. Some may blame the parents; others engage in self-pity, or become angry because of restrictions on activities. They may also resent other children who do not have the disease, including their brothers and sisters.

Other children in the family may feel left out and resentful because of the amount of time and attention to the child with arthritis. Clearly, having an arthritic child in the family may have substantial impact upon the whole family.

The first thing to do is to let everyone know that it is nobody’s fault. Arthritis can happen to anyone without reason and no one is to be blamed. Secondly, arm yourself with the right knowledge. Knowing about the disease and what you should or should not do may help you handle your child’s condition better.

Do:

1)      Keep lines of communication open by encouraging everyone to talk about their feelings and fears.

2)      Keep a positive attitude and find ways to help your child cope.

3)      Allow your child with arthritis to express his anger occasionally and remind her/him that you are always there to offer support

4)      Encourage your arthritic child to behave like other children and take the same responsibilities such as household chores

5)      Train older children to manage their own medication and exercise programme.

6)      Inform children of side effects of their medication and to report them to you if it happens

Don’t:

1)      Blame yourself or anyone else. This will help your child to understand that it is nobody’s fault.

2)      Forget to spare time for the rest of the children and the spouse

3)      Over-protect by disallowing all forms of physical activity as the child will benefit more from frequent movement

4)      Allow your child to manipulate others with his disease

5)      Allow your child to become over-dependent upon you or others as there is a potential that it will be a lifelong condition

Arthritis and school

Having arthritis can affect a child’s school performance and some parents may be tempted to stop a child’s education. This is usually not advised unless the condition is too severe. Children with arthritis should attend school like normal children, although some modifications and special allowances can be made to accommodate the child’s varying degrees of pain and stiffness.

Most children with arthritis do want to attend school and be treated like their peers. However, they may also feel insecure, inadequate, angry, depressed, frustrated by the physical restrictions and embarrassed if their joints are deformed.

As such, parents can help by building the child’s self-esteem, training the child to look at his strengths instead of his limitations and encouraging him in all ways possible. Other additional tips:

·         Encourage physical therapy to keep his joints mobile, strengthen his muscles and make everyday activities like walking and dressing easier

·         Teachers ought to be informed of the child’s condition so that they can understand his fatigue levels and medicational needs. They should also have your phone number in case his condition is bad and he needs immediate medical attention.

·         The school needs to be notified that morning stiffness can slow bathing, dressing and other morning routines, leading to late arrival at school.

·         Have stretch breaks to relieve stiffness. A classroom seat at the corners can make standing and stretching less conspicuous.

·         Depending on other symptoms, a different desk or chair may be needed.

·         Recruit a “buddy” to help carry heavy items.

In addition:

Writing may be difficult when arthritis affects the child’s hands. Try these ways to protect hand joints:

    • Build up pens and pencils with foam shells
    • Use computers or other electronic devices for writing assignments
    • Record lectures, copy another student’s notes or give the student copies of teacher overheads
    • Provide extra time for written tests
    • Allow the student to give answers orally instead of writing

 

 

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