MS and Parenting: Allow Kids to Be Kids

Moms and dads with multiple sclerosis (MS) sometimes need to look to others — their partners, children, extended family members, and friends — for help with their daily activities or their care. But sometimes, children are given more caregiving responsibilities than they can handle. Even though this doesn’t happen often, it is important to emphasize that kids need to be able to be kids — not miniature adults.

Following are several tips on how to avoid overloading your kids.

  • Avoid assigning too many chores. Having chores around the house is not a problem for kids. Many kids who have a parent with MS end up doing a few more household chores than their peers, but it’s generally not a big deal.

    Particularly if everyone in the household pitches in, and the chores are done on a rotating basis so that no one person always get stuck with the yucky ones, the kids don’t seem to mind much. In fact, children and teens are often pretty proud of their contribution to the household and the skills they develop.

    The problem begins when household chores interfere with schoolwork, social activities, sports, and other activities that are important to a child’s development and well-being. So, if your children don’t have time to do their own stuff, you probably need to reassess and adjust the situation.

  • Be careful not to heap on too much responsibility. Developing a sense of responsibility is healthy for kids. However, being given responsibilities that are more than they can handle isn’t. Kids get anxious when your expectations exceed their abilities, particularly when they believe that your safety and well-being depend on them.

    Developing a sense of responsibility is a good thing, but too much of a good thing isn’t healthy for any child. If you need more help than your children are able to provide safely and confidently, talk over your options with your healthcare team and call the National MS Society (800-FIGHT-MS or 800-344-4867) for tips on finding help in your home.

  • Establish boundaries. Sometimes kids — particularly those of single parents — end up having to provide more personal care than is appropriate. For example, a mom or dad who needs help with dressing, bathing, or toileting (including intermittent catheterization), may call on a son or daughter for help.

    Even though this kind of situation is sometimes unavoidable, young children and teens shouldn’t be involved in a parent’s intimate care because it’s too uncomfortable for both the parent and the child. Every effort should be made to make other arrangements, either by enlisting the help of adult relatives or by hiring someone to provide the assistance.

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