The impact of juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) on parents

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Learn strategies to cope with the stress and worry of having a child or teenager with JIA.

Key points

  • Parents have many things to worry about when their child has JIA including the impact it will have on their child's future, financial concerns, and how to promote their child's independence.
  • There are multiple strategies parents can use to minimize or manage the impact their child's JIA will have on the parents and the rest of the family.

When your teenager is first diagnosed with JIA, you may experience many different emotions. You might feel shock, disbelief or even guilt. You may find yourself wondering if you did or didn’t do something to cause your teenager’s JIA. These types of thoughts can be common for parents, but you are not to blame. You are not the cause of your teenager’s JIA.

You may also worry about the impact your teenager’s JIA will have on their future. This might include concerns about them being able to go on to university or college, the type of work they will find or their ability to have children.

Financial concerns are another source of stress for parents. You may worry about how you will pay for medications and other treatments. You may also be concerned about having to take time off work for appointments.

Finally, as your teenager gets older, you might wonder how you can best promote their independence. You will want to support them as they learn how to manage their JIA on their own.

Strategies to manage your feelings

Coping with stress and worry

Sometimes parenting a teenager with a chronic illness such as JIA can create a great deal of stress and worry that can lead to different types of problems. For example, stress can affect:

  • your emotions (e.g., depressed, anxious, worried)
  • your physical well-being (low energy level, not sleeping well)
  • how you relate to your teenager
  • your efforts in supporting your teenager’s illness management and promoting their independence.

There are many different ways in which you can minimize the stress and worry in your life. Below are some suggestions.

  • Share your concerns with your partner and/or spouse, family, friends, a health-care professional or any other supportive person.
  • Set limits for yourself. Say ‘no’ when you can’t do something. Saying no can be very difficult. Remind yourself that you need to be there for the long haul. Protecting your time will enable you to better focus on what is important to you and your family.
  • Choose an activity, such as listening to music or taking a walk when you are upset and need some time to take a break and rejuvenate. Taking slow, deep breaths when stressed can also help you to relax in what may seem like an overwhelming moment.
  • Exercise regularly. This will help relax tense muscles, improve your mood, and help you get a good night’s sleep.
  • Make time for fun and leisure activities to do with your family and also for you to do by yourself. Although this can seem difficult to fit into your busy day-to-day routine, making space for positive time can help relieve stress. It can help you and your family to cope together over the long-term.

If you are having difficulty with constant stress and worry, seek professional help. We all require some support at one time or another. If you don’t know how to find good professional help, ask your doctor. If you don’t have a doctor, ask your teenager’s doctor.

Strategies for managing the impact of JIA on your family

There are a number of strategies you can use to manage the impact your teenager’s JIA can have on your family.

  • Learning more about JIA and helping your children learn more about JIA.
  • Taking care of yourself so you can better care for your teenager and the rest of your family.
  • Considering your parenting style and how it can affect the management of your teenager’s JIA.
  • Remembering to have non-illness-related conversations with your teenager with JIA.
  • Having conversations with the rest of your family. This can help both your teenager with JIA and their siblings remember that they are also a regular teenager. It can help your other children realize that they are important too. This can help JIA become just a part of your family’s life.
  • Taking things one day at a time.
  • Remembering that you are not alone.

These strategies are explained in more detail in a page in this section entitled “The impact of JIA on your family​.”

Last updated: January 31st 2017