Children Playing the Role of Caregiver 

Make sure your child doesn’t become overwhelmed if they help take care of you or their siblings.

If your mobility and energy are limited because you have arthritis, your teenagers (or even younger kids) may end up helping you out quite a bit. 

The National Alliance of Caregiving reports that more than 1.3 million children serve as caregivers to a parent or grandparent. It is of vital importance to the well-being of these child caregivers that they are treated as children and not as adults. Use these guidelines to help parent a child caregiver and learn some ways to keep these children from feeling overwhelmed by their responsibilities. 

Keep things “normal.” 

Make sure children caregivers have opportunities to enjoy “regular kid” fun as often as possible. “Children need time to be children,” says Helen Land, PhD, associate professor of social work at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. “They need to have experiences outside of caregiving.”

Watch for signs of stress

If your child has frequent headaches or backaches, inability to sleep or eat, or stomach upset, it could be a sign that her burden is too heavy, says Land. Develop a support network. Call upon other adults to help ease the burden on your children.

Consider their duties a standard chore

“All family members contribute to the running of the household. Children can be educated that household chores are not something they do because mommy or daddy has pain, they’re things family members do for each other,” says Land.

Don’t put it all on one child

If you have multiple children, don’t overload one. The oldest may have to help with certain caregiving chores -- but then spread the wealth for other things.

Don’t feel guilty about asking for help

Your children may be more willing to pitch in than you would predict.

Choose your child’s tasks wisely

Give them age-appropriate chores – and watch for signs that they’re uncomfortable taking on a certain role. “Think about how it will make the kid feel to do it,” advises 17-year-old Matthew, whose mother has rheumatoid arthritis. "I have had have to put my mother’s hair in a ponytail for her in front of my friends. And it was kind of embarrassing.”
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