I was a polite kid, for the most part. My parents regularly received compliments on my behavior. To my teachers, I was always “a pleasure to have in class,” and my friends’ parents loved having me over for dinner. However, it wasn’t too hard to get on my bad side. The instant someone would say my juvenile psoriatic arthritis was “just growing pains,” I would lose all patience and start rolling my eyes. While I’ve learned to react more appropriately as an adult, it was a difficult lesson to learn as a child.
Every person with chronic pain receives ignorant comments like, “My back hurts too” or “Just take some Tylenol.” As a kid, I recall hearing, “It’s just growing pains,” “You’re too young for arthritis,” “It can’t be that bad if you’re so young,” “You’ll grow out of it,” among others. I mostly got these comments from adults, which made it even harder to learn how to reply, or if I even should.
As a kid, it helped when my mum took the time to explain why others made these comments. I already understood that many people don’t know kids can get arthritis, so I knew the best way to react was by educating others. Usually, I got a good reaction from other people! However, my least favorite comments were ones about my pain just being “growing pains” or not as bad because I was a kid. Even though my mum explained that others were trying to sympathize, it didn’t make me feel better. Those comments made me feel that the person was simply dismissing my pain. For a child who was going through a lot, those comments really hurt.
Over time, I found the key to dealing with these comments is always with kindness and education. Some kids aren’t phased by comments, others use them as an opportunity to educate others or be witty, and others feel very insulted. Being open with your child, letting them know your expectations of how you want them to react, and educating them so they can educate others (if they choose to) is a good way to deal with ignorant comments. It’s important to let your child know that people only make comments because they don’t understand — they’re usually not trying to be mean. Let your child be honest with you about their experiences and how they made them feel. Allowing them to vent is extremely valuable, and can help you give them advice on what to say next time.
Even as an adult, I still wish people knew to say things such as, “I can’t imagine what you’re going through,” as opposed to, “You’re young and will bounce back.” Though it can be a burden and somewhat hurtful at times, learning to deal with those comments made me a better person. Simply put, I can’t control what others say, I can only control how I react. Eventually, I learned how to reply to ignorance with grace, education, and sometimes comedy. The experience helped me learn to be my own healthcare advocate and stand up for myself. It also helped me learn that people do mean well, and this is often their way of trying to sympathize. Knowing that reality helped me learn to always respond with kindness, and made me learn to look at life from someone else’s shoes. And that, by far, is one of the best lessons I’ve ever learned.
Note: Juvenile Arthritis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Juvenile Arthritis News, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to juvenile arthritis.