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6 Tips for Parenting with MS

By Shelley Peterman Schwarz
I was a terrific parent before I had children. I had all the answers. My children would not have temper tantrums in the grocery store. My children would follow all the rules. In truth, being a parent has been the most humbling experience of my life. They say insanity is inherited; you get it from your children.

Although I am not an expert in childrearing techniques or child development, I’d like to think that I’ve learned a few things in my 40 years as a mom. My kids (daughter Jamie, 40, and son Andrew, 38,) turned out great, so I can say that being their mother was worth every sleepless night and gray hair. Many of the things I know now would have been so helpful to have known when I was dealing not only with the stresses of parenting, but also while dealing with the daily physical losses because of multiple sclerosis. If I had known these basic concepts and strategies, I believe I might have been a better mom. I certainly would have been less stressed out.

So, here’s some wisdom from "Shelley's Parenting 101 Course”:

1. Kids are born with personalities. Some are quiet and laid back from the moment they’re born. Others are busy, busy, busy all day and night. I learned this when I had Jamie. I was in the hospital for nine days because of complications. (I would not be diagnosed with MS until five years later.) As we prepared to leave the hospital, the nurse from the nursery placed Jamie in my arms and whispered, “This one is going to give you a run for your money.” She was so right!

2. Children assert themselves at a very early age. I like wearing turtlenecks and I usually dressed Jamie in turtlenecks. However, younger brother Andrew refused to wear turtlenecks even as a toddler. It’s still true today; you’ll never see him in a turtleneck.

3. Think in terms of six week cycles. As children grow, they go through developmental stages. Things like temper tantrums, being afraid of thunderstorms, not wanting to go to school, etc., are common. If the behavior lasted longer than 6-8 weeks or got significantly worse, I consulted my child’s teacher, doctor, other mothers, or community resources to learn if my child’s behavior was within normal limits.

4. Children often regress before they make a leap in development. Little ones may want to be carried everywhere before they start walking. Kids may become home bodies, before they start wanting to sleep at a friend’s house.

5. Children want some say or control in their lives, so I say, pick your battles carefully. What difference does it make if your three year old wants to wear ridiculous outfits? Who cares if your middle schooler sprays her hair pink, or your teenager wants to wear sandals with a tuxedo? (Take a picture. One day, you’ll all get a big laugh.)

6. Every day between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. is the “Arsenic Hour.” Why? Because every child is tired, cranky, and irritable and so is every parent.

Remember you’re not the only one dealing with the challenges of raising children. So, hang on! It’s a wild ride!

Shelley Peterman Schwarz lives in Madison, Wis. She is the award-winning writer and author of 7 Tips for Making Life Easier books. Columnist for the Wisconsin State Journal newspaper. Monthly guest on the CBS affiliate in south-central Wisconsin, (WISC-TV) on New 3 at Noon. She was diagnosed with primary-progressive multiple sclerosis more than 30 years ago.  She said “even though I'm severely disabled due to MS, I lead a happy, unlimited life. I've made peace with the many loses that I've had.”