5 Back-to-School Tips for Spoonie Parents


The new school year may be in full swing, but transitioning from the free-spirited summer back to a rigid school schedule is no easy task. It’s especially challenging for those living with chronic illness. So if you’re having trouble making the back-to-school switch, these tips might help.

1. Put your health first.

There’s a reason why airline safety videos advise you to put your oxygen mask on yourself before helping others. In order to take care of the people you love, you must take care of yourself first. That means keeping up with doctor appointments, medication, appropriate exercise and/or stretching, hydration, sleep and hygiene.

2. Assemble your support team.

Think of it as choosing your own league of superheroes. Reach out to other parents and coordinate a carpool. Ask trusted neighbors if they’d be open to babysitting in an emergency. Contact the school about any challenges that concern you. Above all, engage your loved ones. Talk to your partner, grandparent, sibling or friend and let them help. They want to be there for you.

3. Save yourself the trip.

As a parent living with chronic illness, you’re probably no stranger to online services. But now – during a stressful period of change – is when you can really benefit from them. Instead of making an exhausting trip to a crowded department or grocery store, just have school supplies, new school outfits, groceries or even a hot meal delivered right to you if possible. Saving yourself a trip means conserving energy for more important things, like playtime.

4. Have a plan B. And a plan C, and maybe even D.

Bad days happen, even when you’ve done everything in your power to prevent them. By preparing for the worst, you can get through it with less stress. Stock up on healthy freezer meals and pre-packaged kids’ lunches for when flare-ups keep you from cooking. Make a list of easy-to-initiate after-school activities for when you’re too fatigued to think on your feet. Then, whenever you have a bad day moving forward, try to write down anything that might have made it easier – so you can be even more prepared next time.

5. Don’t compare your family to others.

The Smiths might be able to keep the house spotless, eat the healthiest meals and limit screen time to 30 seconds per day, but you’re not the Smiths. What works for them might not work for you. So you had chicken nuggets again and didn’t get to the dishes? Your family ate dinner together, and that is what matters. Celebrate what you can do instead of worrying about what you can’t.

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