How to help a child who has MS
Growing up can be hard for anyone, especially those suffering from a debilitating disease. Children with MS often have many physical, mental, and social challenges ahead of them. Here are just a few ways that adults can help children with MS overcome some of these obstacles in order for them to have a happier and healthier childhood. We will not be discussing specific drugs or treatments here, as those are best left up to discussions between you and your child's doctor.
- Be Involved With Your Child's School- Many kids may shudder at the thought of their parents constantly coming to their school and talking with administrators, but it may be a necessary evil for those with an MS child. Children with MS will often have to miss school due to attacks, relapses, doctor's appointments and more. They also might not be able to do things like strenuous physical education. Be sure to contact your school administrators and let them know of your child's condition and how your child should be treated to prevent MS attacks. Childhood MS often affects children's ability to focus, memorize, and learn in class as well. Make sure the school is aware of this and don't be afraid to find them an extra tutor if needed.
- Do Not Forego Treatment- Some parents may think that MS will eventually go away, or that it can be treated with common anti-inflammatories. This is sadly not the case. Many MS patients need specific medications that prevent attacks and prevent swelling and inflammation in the central nervous system. Make sure you and your child are seeing a doctor frequently and discussing a treatment plan that will help your child succeed. It is well worth it in terms of the benefits this will have on your child's condition.
- Help Them Have A Healthy Diet- While there has been no evidence shown that healthy diets cure or prevent MS, they certainly have been known to make anyone (including MS patients) feel better and healthier. Take care to ensure that your children are getting a well-balanced diet and sufficient nutrients and minerals. Here are a few things you should be looking to put into your child's diet:
- Protein- Proteins help grow and repair tissue, which is especially important in preventing injuries. Protein can be found in most red meats, chicken, and fatty fish. A childhood staple, the peanut butter and jelly sandwich, is actually a great source of protein because of the peanut butter and (preferably) whole wheat bread.
- Carbohydrates- Carbohydrates help boost your energy levels, which can be important for MS patients. Many children may get fatigued easily if they have MS, so getting plenty of carbs is a must. Some of the best carbohydrates for boosting energy are whole wheat breads and pastas, fruits like bananas and berries, and different types of yogurt products.
- Fats- Many assume that fats are bad for you, when in reality most fats are the opposite. Fats are necessary to better absorb other necessary vitamins and minerals from foods. The fats you should avoid are trans fats which are usually found in fried, greasy, or grilled foods. The good fats can be found in fatty fish, different types of nuts and seeds, and peanut butter.
- Water- Drinking plenty of water helps vitamins and minerals flow through the body, and can ensure the body is working at maximum capacity. Most doctors recommend children drink anywhere from 6 to 8 cups of water a day.
- Vitamins and Minerals- There are too many vitamins and minerals to list out here, but you can make sure your child is getting all the ones they need by ensuring their diet includes plenty of fruits, vegetables (especially dark green ones), nuts and seeds, and different types of red meat.
4. Focus On Their Mental Health- Having MS often leads to problems with depression and anxiety, especially in children. Children with MS often feel isolated from their peers, and the limits of their condition can make them feel lesser than their classmates. Many MS groups have support networks for kids who can meet and play with other childhood MS patients. This is great because they can meet someone who has and understands their condition. You should also be on the lookout for opportunities for your child to build their social circle. Although MS patients can't always play sports, they can join groups and classes for a variety of activities including chess, crafts, bird watching, etc. Figure out what your child is interested in and turn that into a social opportunity. It will help them through the isolation they feel. Don't be afraid to contact a child therapist if your child seems to be taking the disease limitations especially hard.