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Looking after your child's mental health

Arthritis can affect many areas of your life. It's important to look after your child's mental health as well as their physical health.

Talk about your child's condition

Your child will probably feel angry, scared and upset at having this condition at a young age. These feelings are natural, and a sympathetic ear, kindness and plenty of attention from loved ones can go a long way to help.

Caring and experienced healthcare professionals will also be on hand to help and to answer any questions. Encourage your child to ask you and their healthcare professionals questions. 

It's important to take care of your own well-being too. As a parent, it can be a worrying time, so don't be afraid of discussing your worries with people you trust.

It's usually sensible to openly discuss your child's condition and management of their healthcare with them and the rest of your family. It can also be helpful to talk to another family who've been through the same experience. Discuss this with your paediatric or adolescent rheumatology team if you'd like the chance to do this.

Keep your routine

It's sensible to maintain rules around behaviours which a child/young person can control and to keep life as normal as possible when they're well. Special treats/allowing certain behaviours when unwell sometimes need to be stopped when well.

Being sympathetic and understanding of the difficulties your child is going through is very important.

If your child is frustrated at not being able to manage activities, involve them in thinking of alternatives which they would enjoy.

Body issues

Persistent active arthritis can affect the growth of individual joints and overall height gain. Some drugs can cause visible side-effects.

Severe arthritis, and steroids, can delay puberty in some children. Girls may begin their periods and develop breasts later. For boys, facial hair and voice-breaking may be delayed. If you have any concerns about these side-effects, please discuss this with your rheumatology team.

Young people may feel anxious about developing relationships if they feel they look 'different'. Read our section on advice around relationships.

Most teenagers are very conscious of their bodies and body image, and want to be like their friends. These side-effects can be upsetting. Your child may need lots of reassurance and confidence boosts.

Paediatric rheumatology teams may have access to clinical psychologists who can support young people if these issues are on their minds, or you're worried about their mental well-being.

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