Chronic pain is something that millions of American live with every day. But in a homeschooling environment, you might expect conditions like fibromyalgia and IBS to affect the parent, not the student. That’s not necessarily the case. About one in 20 children live with chronic pain according to the latest US medical data.
For many parents and children, homeschooling is a logical choice when the student has a chronic health condition that needs monitoring. But that is a little different to living with chronic pain, as many childhood illnesses have other symptoms, such as lack of energy or a weak immune system, that need a different type of care management.
Chronic Pain in Children and Teens – Common Causes
Health writer Rosemary Black says the most common cause of chronic pain in children and teens is headaches. Of course, delving into childhood headaches opens up a whole Pandora’s Box of root causes, ranging from trauma to an intracranial mass to a genetic predisposition.
Contrary to popular myth, children and teens can experience fibromyalgia, too. The condition is known as juvenile primary fibromyalgia syndrome (JPFS) and is most common in teenage girls. It affects the muscles, joints, ligaments, tendons and skin, so it is no surprise that children describe the symptoms as “hurting all over.”
The other common chronic pain experienced by children and teens is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Like JPFS, it can be difficult to identify the root cause, and treatment is usually limited to managing symptoms to minimize discomfort.
Be flexible with your timing
Many forms of chronic pain follow some sort of pattern. One of the great benefits of homeschooling is that you can decide when the school bell rings. Most experts agree that there is little real benefit in “battling through the pain.” Let’s be realistic here, how much can you expect a teen to take in about calculus or history or French verb forms when he or she has a splitting headache or debilitating stomach cramps?
If mornings are better, start the school day at 7AM or even 6:30. If flare-ups tend to happen around the middle of the day, start early, have a few hours break and then recommence mid-afternoon when things settle down.
Invest in a comfortable classroom
Several hours spent every day at a cramped school desk on a rock-hard wooden chair is enough to give anyone discomfort. But it can take things to a whole new level of bad when living with chronic back pain or JFPS.
An area at home dedicated to learning where both you and your student can sit in comfort is incredibly important for any homeschooling set up. But that counts double when the student is trying to cope with chronic pain at the same time.
Avoid the temptation for sofas and loungers, unless they are reserved for occasional super-relaxed activities like reading or perhaps watching some educational program together. Far more practical is to focus on ergonomic features of furniture in the home schoolroom. Your mind will automatically go first to chairs, and investing in one that is fully adjustable so that it can both provide comfort and be adjusted as your child grows. But also think about the overall set up, including desk and features like an anti-glare monitor that is less likely to trigger headaches.
Coping is learning
Your pediatrician will undoubtedly have recommended some coping methods for your child’s pain management. Spend as much time on these as you need to. It is all part of your child’s learning experience. Whether it is breathing exercises, yoga or simply taking 20 minutes in a darkened room, talk through it with your child, and encourage him or her to think about how it helps and what it feels like.
It will help both of you to better understand the nature of the pain, and will also reassure your child that he or she is not alone and that you have at least some understanding of what it is like.
Homeschooling is often a good choice for children and teens who live with chronic pain. Even so, remember, there is no magic solution so take each day as it comes.