With nearly one in two Americans having a chronic illness, illness in the family is not unusual. But what if you are the mom or dad responsible for getting your children to school and you are in severe pain?
Though we hear frequently, a daily routine for kids can make everything smoother. The first days of a new routine may be stressful, but soon your children will learn what is expected. Here are some tips that may help when dealing with illness in the family.
Get as many things done the evening before as you can: get the backpack ready, lunches packed, permission slips signed, etc. Have the kids choose the clothes they will wear, or if they frequently change their mind, let them have two options. If your daughter likes accessories like bows for her hair, have her put these in a bag and add it to the hanger of the outfit.
Use alarms. Though you may get less sleep, set an alarm to go off thirty minutes earlier than you need to rise, turn on a heating pad, take your medication, or put on a couple "pain patches." Coffee won't ease the pain, but if the smell perks you up, set an alarm for your pot. There are many alarm clocks for kids that allow them to wake up to their favorite character's voice or music.
Assign each child a color for all his or her personal items. This can include a towel and washcloth, toothbrush, bowl, cup, basket, hooks and more. When something is left out, it's also easy to know which child needs to put it away.
Consider what can help your body function better. For example, you may want a hand warmer in your pockets during cold months. I have a memory foam steering wheel cover that makes steering easier. If you have difficulty getting your arms into a coat, get a shawl to drape around yourself.
The healthiest breakfast does not have to be complicated. What do your kids like to eat? Healthy breakfasts for kids can include refrigerated foods such as yogurt drinks or apple sauce that you keep in a plastic basket in the fridge. On the table have a basket of other items, such as breakfast bars or fruit leather. A countertop cereal dispenser can make it fun for them to help themselves. If your kids love pancakes, try using the batter you squirt out of a can. If the school as a breakfast-for-kids option that you can afford, you may want to consider it.
Give rewards to the kids for doing as much as they can on their own. Even young children can get partially dressed or wash their face. Decide what you can reasonably expect from them and then what the reward will be. One of my friends rewards her four-year-old with dimes. Having a posted kid's-morning-routine checklist helps them be more independent.
Don't fight what is natural. It may be nice to have the children's coats hung in the closet, but do they hang it up? How much time do you spend looking for shoes or coats in the morning? Instead, add hooks or baskets in easy-to-reach locations. There are some great closet organizers for kids. Don't assign 30 minutes of chores for your kids when they come home from school, but do make sure homework is on the table, coats and backpacks are hung up, etc., before the television is turned on.
Have a list for each day on a white board. Every Sunday I copy everything from my calendar to the white board in the kitchen. It lists the day library books and permission slips are due and when reading class and karate take place. If anyone else needs to help you during a difficult time of illness, it's easy for them to see what is due when or where my child needs rides. Establish a backup plan if you are unable to drive your children to school; is there someone you can call occasionally?
One woman said, "At night I am so drained, I have not been doing my best at getting things ready at night. I should try finding a moment during the day to start doing this." We've all been there! Do whatever makes sense to you. Clothes can be picked out on the weekends. Organize lunch snacks on the weekends. I put lots of non-perishable snacks for lunches in sealed bags on the weekends and label the day with the day.
Get silly. I know singing a song or making faces may be the last thing you feel like doing, but morning routines don't have to be all drudgery. If everyone gets in the car or to the bus stop on time, reward the kids with silly routines. My son loves for us to make up a story one sentence at a time. Children who have ADD or sensory processing disorder may benefit from a few minutes of running around outside while waiting for the bus. It feels good to get them out the door with smiles on their faces, and they will have happy memories of mom being fun, not moaning and groaning.
Coping with chronic illness is never easy. Chronic illness and family support, from the parents to the children, will create their own routine so that that family can thrive as well as possible. Teaching your children skills of independency and working as a team will benefit everyone in the end. And don't be discouraged if your family routines seem different from that of the typical family. Each family is unique and flows in its own pattern.
Lisa Copen is the founder of National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week and Rest Ministries, the largest Christian organization that specifically serves the chronically ill. She is a sought-after speaker who brings joy, humor, and hope, to those who live with chronic illness, from her own 17-year journey with rheumatoid arthritis. Visit IFoundLisaAtHuffPost.com to for the current featured free download that will help you or someone you love cope better with chronic illness.