If you have children, you have probably wondered what to say to them about your chronic pain. They are part of your world – so your pain impacts them. Even if you haven't told them about your pain, chances are they have figured out that something is wrong. Not knowing what is wrong can be scary. Here are some suggestions for talking with your kids about your pain.
Explore Your Own Attitudes First
Some of your attitudes about pain may be healthy (“I can cope”) and some may not be so healthy (“My life is ruined”). Take a look at your own attitudes before you talk with your children. You will want to share attitudes that suggest that even though living with pain is very difficult, you can manage, and that you have hope. Your children need not hear your worst fears. Don't lie to your kids, but don't scare them needlessly.
Think About What Your Child Wants to Know, Needs to Know, and Can Handle
Your children may be wondering about a lot of different issues. Your child's age will be an important determinant of the kinds of questions and feelings that he or she may have. Children of different ages need different information. Younger children will mostly want to know that you are safe and that you will be there for them. Middle-school age children may have more specific questions about what is wrong, how you feel, and what the future will hold. Like younger kids, they too will be concerned about how your pain may impact them. Share what they can understand and no more. You will be able to have a more frank exchange of information with teenagers. They will be better able to understand your condition and so
me of the possible implications for the future. Respect their need for information, but remember that they are not yet adults and should also be shielded to a certain extent from things that may be frightening. In general, you will want to convey to your child of any age that you are working to manage your pain, that you have doctors and other health professionals to help you. It should be very clear that they are not responsible for your pain or for your care.
Your children may appreciate a follow-up chat a week or so after your initial discussion. This will give them the opportunity to share what they have been thinking about and to ask any additional questions. You will have a chance to clear up any misconceptions and to help them deal with any new issues. It will also let them know that the door is always open for discussion. Open communication will go a long way towards helping your children to cope with your chronic pain.
About the Author. Dr. Linda Ruehlman is a social/health psychologist and researcher, co-founder of Goalistics, and director of the Chronic Pain Management Program, an interactive site that helps people with chronic pain to manage their pain and live richer, more effective lives as well as Think Clearly about Depression, a self-management program for depression.
DISCLAIMER: This blog is provided as an educational and informational resource only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional psychological or medical advice.