Summer — the season for easy schedules and relaxing days, right? Unfortunately, it’s not so relaxing when you are dealing with both rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and the demands of children home from school. So, how can you make this summer one that benefits the needs of RA and your school-age children?
Most importantly, make yourself a priority this summer. I know it is difficult when you may already feel that you have let your children down in so many ways due to your illness. However, you and your health are important. The better care you take of yourself, the better you can care for your children and their needs.
Work as Team
Explain to your children that you are a team and to be a success, you need to help each other. Share how your energy is limited and can be depleted quickly. For this to be a great summer for everyone, you need to work together.
- Discuss and outline the expectations each person has for the summer.
- If it looks like more than you can handle, ask for suggestions on how it can be accomplished. When I include my kids in the planning, I am always amazed at how brilliant they are at coming up with ideas.
- If their expectations look like too much for you, let your children know so that feelings are not hurt later.
- Prioritize activities so that you ensure the most important ones are completed.
By including your children in the planning, you are empowering them as part of the team and are more likely to have success. Plus, by getting their input, you are making sure you don’t add unnecessary activities to an already busy schedule.
As you plan, always keep your health at the forefront of the decision-making. If possible, choose activities that your children can transport themselves to by foot or bike if necessary. Also, include nearby neighbor friends whose parents would be willing to help with carpooling.
Everyone likes something to look forward to and summer is the perfect time to do things we love. Enroll your children in summer camps that fulfill their passions. Plan a family vacation. Even a playdate with a friend can be something fun to look forward to.
Pool passes can be bought early in the season at discounted prices. If your children enjoy the water, the money spent on pool passes is more than worth it. A bonus is that you can sit on the sidelines reading a good book or you can get in the water and do gentle movements.
Many theatres provide discount movies one day a week. This is a great way for you to enjoy time with your children while also taking it easy on your body.
Libraries are always prepared for summer. They schedule programs for a variety of ages and interests. My children and I also enjoyed just hanging out at the library for an hour or so, leisurely choosing stacks of books to take home.
Do absolutely nothing. For some reason, we feel the need to fill every moment of our children’s days. They get enough of that during the school year. Let summer be a break for everyone. Be spontaneous some days. Some of our favorite days were when we stayed in our pajamas the entire day building forts, making cookies, hanging out reading a good book together or binge watching some of our favorite TV shows.
Require that your children help around the house. School-age children can be given a variety of daily jobs that make life easier for you once they get the hang of it. Plus, believe it or not, our children want to relieve our pain and when they realize helping around the house helps you, they are generally more open-minded to assisting. Word of caution: Do not expect their work to be perfect. For months, my then-9-year-old daughter folded our kitchen towels in a variety of shapes before concluding that the standard method of folding was in place because the towels fit better in the drawer.
For children ages 10 and up, a summer job might be fun. Around 9-10 years old my children started working as mother’s helpers for friends with younger children. They also started doing pet-sitting that took them through their teen years. As they got a little older, they moved up to babysitting and lawncare. It is a nice way to have some independence while earning a little extra cash and requires little effort by you.
Summer is a fun family time. Our schedules are lighter, and we have a little more flexibility in dealing with our RA. However, it also takes planning. Sit down with your children soon and start the summer off right! Enjoy!