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How Do You Get Your Child to Attend School More Consistently When Their Pain is Unpredictable?

So how in the world do you get your child to attend school more consistently when their pain is all over the place?

I know this is a problem that A LOT of our group members struggle with. It is hard enough to motivate kids who DON’T have pain, but when you throw in chronic pain, anxiety, and depression it can be VERY hard to know when to push your child and when to let them rest.

Having a plan takes the guesswork out of it.

But not just any plan.

In order to build your child’s capacity to attend school regularly, you need to start small with what you know they are capable of regardless of pain intensity. And then you build. Slowly but surely. But you can’t really build it for them and expect them to do it. You need to build it WITH them, so that you are on the same page managing pain together.

Whether your child is non-functional or semi-functional, whether they are at a brick and mortar school or are homeschooled, the goal is to build a routine that becomes consistent, regardless of pain flares, so that we can start to “follow the plan and not the pain.”

This is not easy. And you may feel like you have already tried to take small steps with your child and it didn’t work. My guess is you probably tried to push them a little too hard and they refused and now you are back at square one again. At least that was my mistake at the beginning.

So how do you help your child to attend school more consistently? It requires setting manageable weekly micro goals that your child is able to successfully accomplish regardless of fluctuating pain levels. Doing a small amount of school daily is better than doing more school on lower pain days and less school on higher pain days. Consistency helps to get you off that roller coaster of pain flares.

First, decide with your child what they know they are able to handle, regardless of pain levels. If it is 10 min of school a day then you start with that. If it is one hour of school each day then you start with that (for some kids it is sitting up in bed for 1 min/day to write in a notebook). Let's say that your child is pretty confident they can go to school for 10 min a day even on a 10/10 pain day. Then that is your first weekly microgoal. And every day that week your child goes for 10 min a day. The next week, you can increase it to 15 min. The next week 20 min. And so on. If your child feels like they can increase it by more than 5 min at a time then great! If not, then you move it back to a 2 min increase each week. But you need to be sure not to push them because the point is to develop consistency.

If you give yourselves more time than you think you need (like 6 months to a year) to develop a consistent school routine then you will be surprised by the progress you can make in that time. The goal isn't to push our child to do what WE think they can do, it is to pinpoint their comfort level and start to grow it ever so slowly week by week. We want our kids to experience success by starting small and growing. This is the way that we help our children to increase their ability to participate in life consistently.

Greta is amazed at what she is able to do now, regardless of pain flares. She isn't functioning at 100% but I'd say she is functioning at 70% pretty consistently. It took us a couple years to get there and we had to traverse many obstacles along the way but slow, steady, small steps are the key to sustainable change.

~ Carla Friesen

Licensed Psychotherapist, Pain Coach

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The general contents of this website are provided solely for educational and informational purposes and are not meant to provide professional medical or psychiatric advice, counselling or therapeutic services.

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