5 Tips for Adjusting Your Lifestyle When You're a Parent With Fibromyalgia
I was recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Like many of you, I’ve had to adjust my lifestyle. And while it’s a little easier for me to make those adjustments when they only involve me, it’s much more difficult when they involve my daughter. I’ve listed some of the things that I’ve had to keep at the forefront while making those adjustments. I hope these help you like they did me.
1. Be Open. Be Honest.
As a dad, I’m fortunate enough to have a deep, rich relationship with my teenage daughter. This is to say that she is keenly in tune with how I’m feeling on any given day. And while I do make myself available to her, I don’t believe that we are solely responsible for her openness. Here willingness to connect is simply because, like most kids, she craves connection. They desire closeness. They want to know what’s going on in the family. They want to be a part of the process. They want to know everything about us as parents. So when you share how you’re feeling at any given moment, share it all. Naturally, this applies to older kids, not young ones that depend on you every waking moment. For them, know this…
…sharing “weakness” is not weakness.
Pretending to be strong all the time can lead to mistrust. Because our kids feed off of our emotions, there are times that we should be strong. But the truth is, we can’t always be strong. There’s nothing wrong with that. Tell them everything. Tell them how you’re feeling. Tell them you’re hurting. They will understand. Kids also know when you’re hiding something. Mine does. And boy, does she pry. That is a good thing. It shows that they’re comfortable in a relationship. It shows that they’ve been made to feel like they can ask you anything. They are also understanding. More than we think. So be open. Be honest. This builds richness in communication. And just think, they may be kids now but when they’re adults, who do you think they will run to when they need someone to listen?
That’s right. You.
2. Talk More. Listen More.
When my daughter was 4 months old, I had a skiing accident that incapacitated me for three months. With braces on both ankles and the slightest movement causing excruciating pain, she sat on my lap for 12-15 hours a day. We set up all of her necessities around the chair and just sat together.
Those were the best weeks of my life.
We’d watch “Blue’s Clues,” play games, etc. It was bonding on a foundational level and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. We built a foundation that can never be taken away.
Take the pain of your present condition and turn it into gold.
I’m not much of a card game player but for her, I’ll adjust. Play some board games. Watch their favorite shows with them. Let your inner geek out and interact with them on what is on those shows. Talk more. Listen more.
Listen with intent.
3. Take Care of Yourself… Stretch!
We are a family of martial artists. One of the most important things to do in the martial arts is stretching. We do it in Karate so that we lower the probability we will injure ourselves during training. And while it seems to some like a tedious, unimportant task, it really isn’t. By stretching in the morning, you’re already improving your cognitive ability and increasing energy levels for the day ahead. It also relieves stress, anxiety, increases blood flow and promotes healing. This will equip you to better interact with others, including your kids. Make time for yourself. Stretch!
4. Ask Them How They Feel
Although this should be a normal practice, there’s a heightened sensitivity when it comes to parenting with pain. It may be your natural extinct to blame or be angry with yourself when it comes to living with pain and how it affects your family. Don’t blame yourself. This is not your fault. Keep the love in the conversation but separate yourself from how your son, daughter or even your spouse will answer this question. Spin it for good. There is beauty where there was once ashes. I saw my daughter flourish in certain areas. Her strength. Her ability to give. These wonderful traits were enhanced and strengthened during this time of adjustment. This one was tough for me, I’ll admit. It’s hard not to blame yourself for the sense of loss they may be feeling. But she is so much stronger today than she was yesterday. A phoenix rising out of the fire.
5. Make New Memories. Try New Things.
All three of us have black belts in American Karate. But when the pain of fibromyalgia hit, I had to scale back on teaching. Karate was our thing. It was especially a thing for my daughter and I so she took it hard when I had to scale back some. I also used to be a guitar player and singer in a band many years ago and now, I’m lucky to have a daughter who is also a rocker and interested in music. I hadn’t picked up a guitar in years but when the pain hit, I thought I’d pick it back up again. My daughter expressed interest so I started giving her lessons. Now we have another thing. If you can’t do the things you did once before with your kids, try something new together. Dig into your past as to what interests or talents you’ve allowed to sit on a shelf. Dust them off and bring your kids into it. Write stories together. Read books together. Prank call their grandparents! They will get to know you better. A deeper, richer you.
A fun you.