Spending Time with the Kids (and Grandkids) while Coping with a Chronic Illness

With the holiday season upon us, family time is likely a big part of your days and weeks. And while this is a wonderful thing, it can also be a bit difficult for people struggling with a chronic illness. Parents of exuberant toddlers can suffer the exhaustion that comes with fibromyalgia while grandparents might be in pain from their osteoarthritis. This doesn’t have to mean sitting out on the holiday fun, though. There are plenty of ways to balance enjoying time with the children in your life while doing what’s best for yourself. We’ve pulled together a few tips on doing exactly that this winter!

Start with Acceptance

Did you know that there’s actual research on what psychologists refer to as ‘wish-fulfilling fantasy’ with respect to chronic illnesses? Oh, and the results are that it only makes things worse! Don’t start your holidays off with dreaming away your fatigue or pain, it’s only likely to take you in the opposite direction of happy, mentally. It’s much more effective to really evaluate your own limitations and understand that they may not mesh perfectly with the rest of the family’s.

Beware the FOMO

Okay, so maybe that’s more slang for the kids than the adults, but it’s a handy little idea. Fear Of Missing Out is one of the more pervasive problems for people battling a chronic illness. However, you’re much more likely to make yourself happy by being content doing 50% of the holiday activities with the kids than you are sleepwalking your way through 100% of it.

Communication is Key

Kids can start understanding other people’s pain as early as 14 months of age. It’s a good idea to prepare them with some conversations before they see all the festivities their friends’ parents and grandparents are participating in. While this is no guarantee that they’ll be perfect little angels, it’s much better than trying to hide just how tired you are from them in the ‘spirit of the holiday.’ This isn’t only true around the holidays, of course. If a family member has different needs due to a medical condition, it’s important that those aren’t hidden or kept secret.

Most importantly, remember that every family’s holidays will look different. Whether you’re sledding and marching through neighborhoods strung with lights or enjoying your favorite movie at home with popcorn, you can have the perfect experience with the kids in your life.


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