I had three great column ideas I’ve been thinking about all week. But when I sat down to write, nothing came to me. I would write a few sentences, often with atrocious spelling, but couldn’t develop my ideas. I couldn’t think about anything but the nagging hip pain that’s been bothering me all day.
There can be times when the pain from juvenile arthritis is downright distracting. That one knuckle that keeps randomly throbbing can demand all your attention. So can an achy hip that won’t allow you to be comfortable in any sitting position. It’s difficult to cope when you’re well enough to go to school, but not well enough to concentrate. When you’re not feeling your best, it can be hard to think critically or give all your attention to your work.
The lack of focus can be extremely frustrating, especially for parents watching their child play video games or endlessly scroll through Instagram. You may ask yourself, “Why can they focus on fun things but not on their homework?” Heck, I’ve been asked this directly quite a few times as a kid. But the simple answer is that, besides being fun, those things are usually much easier to focus on since there’s little critical thinking necessary.
Distraction therapy is a great way to cope with the pain of JA. Doing arts and crafts, playing video games, or singing songs are fun ways to take your mind off the pain. Hospitals frequently utilize distraction therapy for their youngest patients to help manage pain without medication.
But the trick with these distractions is that they’re simple, fun, and are engaging even without much thought put into them. Though I like somewhat complicated activities like crocheting when I’m in pain, I limit myself to simple, repetitive projects — nothing that requires counting or intricate patterns.
While schoolwork can be considered a distraction, it takes a lot of focus and is frustrating when it takes too long or seems too complex. Even as an adult, I find it hard to focus on tasks that aren’t very fun or engaging when my joints are bothering me.
Time and patience
Parents, I don’t have many solutions for your child. I wish I had 10 tips for focusing while you’re flaring because I sure could use them myself. But I will say that I think it’s important to be patient with your child and try to see things from their point of view. Remember the last time you had to work through an awful headache? Just keep that in mind when dealing with your child.
It’s an issue that your child will eventually sort out for themselves as they get older. Knowing that life goes on and the deadlines keep coming, they’ll learn the ways they need to cope. It might be that they learn to schedule medicines before studying and working, or that they need to take frequent short breaks. You can, of course, encourage them to do those things now (and I highly recommend you do!), but ultimately they need to do some experimenting to see what works best for them.
Eventually, I got this column done. It took nothing short of a dozen breaks, at least two visits to Pinterest, a hot shower to try to relax my joints, and lying in bed with two orthopedic pillows. It’s incredible how many things we’ll try to soothe our pain and to relax. But the important thing is that my work eventually got done.
Kids with JA can achieve anything, as long as they learn to listen to their bodies and work with them.
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.
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