Take charge of your health. Sign up for HealthyWomen newsletters:
Healthy Living
Find out more about:

By Steven P. Stanos, DO

Medical Director, Center for Pain Management Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago Assistant Professor, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Feinberg School of Medicine Northwestern University Chicago, IL

Share on:

Q: As I watch other parents with kids, I wonder how my fibromyalgia symptoms will hamper my efforts to be an active parent. What can I do to balance my energy, play with my kids and still take good care of myself?

Before we dig into strategies for self-care, it’s important to acknowledge that children are resilient and understanding. Being a caring, involved parent doesn’t require constant physical activity, and your kids will love you no matter your abilities. There is no shame in being a parent with physical limitations.

If you think your kids are old enough, have a conversation with them about your condition. There’s no need to get into specifics that might confuse or frighten them, but explaining that sometimes you need extra rest or a little assistance with things around the house will help them understand your needs. Being upfront about your condition can help to remove any mystery or stigma and make your situation feel more “normal.”

The best way to take care of yourself is to follow the treatment plan developed with your health care practitioners, which may include medication, exercise, relaxation techniques, dietary changes, therapy and more.  Managing fibromyalgia is a daily task, which may seem daunting at first—but being faithful to your self-care routine will pay off in the long run, and may give you increased stamina and energy.

As a busy parent, you can still find ways to be active.  You can try to look for ways to squeeze in light activity throughout the day. Take your kids for a walk around the neighborhood, or join them when they play at the local playground. If you practice yoga at home, get your kids their own yoga mats; they might think it’s fun to join you (and they’ll get great exercise, too). When your kids go to bed, use the quiet time to meditate or practice relaxation techniques like visualization and diaphragmatic breathing, which can calm your mind and may help you get a good night’s sleep, too.

Realistically, no matter how faithful you are about self-care, there will be days when you can’t do everything you want to accomplish. For those times, it’s helpful to keep an alternate source of fun in reserve: If you planned a visit to the zoo but you’re too fatigued, break out a game your kids can play at home, or an educational video you can watch together. What really counts is spending time together.

Joining forces with your support network can also help you conserve energy. Coordinate group playdates with other parents so your kids can socialize (you supply the snacks; another parent chases them around the backyard). Take advantage of child care services at your gym or place of worship so you have “me time” to meet some of your physical, emotional or spiritual needs. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your spouse or partner, friends, and family. By sharing responsibilities with others you can create a supportive environment for you and your kids and be active in their lives even when you’re not feeling your best.

The health information contained herein is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace discussions with a health care provider. All decisions regarding patient care must be made with a health care provider, considering the unique characteristics of the patient.

Supported by Pfizer Inc.