Children with Arthritis
Learning that your child has arthritis can be confusing and worrying. You may have lots of questions, especially if reaching a diagnosis has taken some time, as it often does.
JIA (juvenile idiopathic arthritis) is the most common type of arthritis in children and young people, but they can also get other forms, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
Caring for a child with arthritis affects the whole family. Besides having to explain the condition to family members and friends, there may be challenges with schooling and extra-curricular activities. The good news is that with good management and support, your child can live a normal life. They don’t have to miss out on the fun of being a child! Some will even outgrow the condition and will not need treatment as adults.
Teenagers and young adults with arthritis
It can be a challenging time for living with JIA as teenagers and young adults deal with the challenges of transitioning from high school in to further education, training or work, as well as transitioning from paediatric to adult rheumatology services. In addition, there are the pressures of balancing the management of JIA, with keeping up a normal life with hobbies, sports, social and school activities. Arthritis Australia have a useful handbook, however do keep in mind that some information will be specific to Australian services.
Arthritis New Zealand have previously run several camps especially for teenagers with arthritis (funding-dependent) and also use a mentoring system where trained “youth leaders” are present at our kids camp. We are always happy to try and connect teenagers and young adults with one another for support and mentoring, so please reach out to us by phoning 0800 663 463 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. We are currently trialling the use of Instagram as a way of keeping teenagers and young adults in touch. Search for arthritis_youth_nz and request to join!
“Even though you have this, it still won’t change who you are.” Moana, 14
Top tips for parents and caregivers
- Arthritis can vary from child to child. Your doctor will create a treatment plan specifically for your child.
- Be prepared for flares – know how to recognise and manage a flare.
- Encourage your child to participate in normal activities, e.g. sports, crafts, music.
- Explain to friends and teachers at your child’s school what juvenile arthritis is and how it might affect your child’s daily life.
- Encourage regular school attendance and daily routines.
- Write down questions as you think of them ready for the next time you talk with your child’s healthcare team.
- Encourage your child to learn their own limits, try new things, and manage aspects of arthritis themselves, e.g. taking medicines.
- Don’t be afraid to reach out for help and support.