Parents with Back Pain and The Benefits of Roughhousing
How to gain the benefits of roughhousing as a pain sufferer is no easy task. The fact is learning how to live with back pain as a parent is one of the toughest challenges anyone can have. Picture for a moment what it would be like if a mother had to suppress her instinct to hold her child when those little arms reach out.
Consider the following account:
“I closed the door on my wailing toddler and left her standing in her crib, reaching out for me. Her cries intensified, like the siren of an ambulance getting closer and louder until its howl drowns out everything else. I walked away and broke down crying. My daughter was sick, and I desperately wanted to soothe her. But I just couldn’t stand and rock her for one more minute to help her get to sleep. My broken body had reached its limit.”  Such is the state of a parent living with back pain.
The Role of Roughhousing in Producing Healthy Kids
The purpose of this post is to make non- pain parents more aware of the role that roughhousing or tumble and play games has in the healthy development of children. Furthermore, how the parent in pain tries to manage so that his or her child can get the benefits of roughhousing.
For more information on roughhousing check: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Play_therapy
Understanding the guilt so you can learn to live with pain as a parent
To answer the question first asked about what happens when a mother has to suppress her instinct to hold her child, we have to speak about guilt. A mother suffering from chronic pain puts it this way: “This guilt infects every part of life as a mom with chronic pain. There is no escaping it, as in nearly every decision there is some feeling of being able to do less than you may want to.” 
The Benefits of Roughhousing
The above example shows the importance of being able to pick up a child and soothe her or him when they are sick. There isn’t any real need to go into more details. However, there is another problem, on the other end of the spectrum, that is often overlooked but can have big implications for future well-being of a child: Roughhousing and play or sometimes called tumble and play. I will devote the rest of the post to this topic.
Not Participating in Roughhousing and Play
In the Art of Roughhousing, Anthony DeBenedet, M.D., a physician and dad, and other scientists have identified rough and tumble play as giving kids Bigger, better brains. 
According to the latest research, physical play stimulates and helps develop areas of the brain that control memory, language, and logic. The research “also shows that when kids roughhouse at home, they do better in school and have better relationships with friends.” 
Let’s see the premise of part of the statement above—kids roughhousing at home do better in school. This is an example of how this works. Think of math. Hah? What’s math have to do with kids tumbling and engaging in a chase?
When Roughhousing Teaches Math
Research has shown that when kids engage in roughhousing combined with an element of the chase, their visual and spatial awareness goes up. Why? Well, they have to “navigate their bodies and the bodies of others in different spaces and across various obstacles.” This will help them become much better at math as they grow older.
When Roughhousing Teaches Better Relations
Two important factors in forming good relationships are understating boundaries and good communication. When kids engage in rough and tumble play they quickly become aware that it’s about having fun and not hurting anyone. Thus, they, for example, learn that if they pull on mummy’s hair too hard it will hurt mummy and they’ll stop doing it. Kids also like to talk a lot when they are engaged in tumble and play. This enhances their linguistic skills and makes them better at communicating as they get older.
The Implication For Mom When Child Won’t Roughhouse
A child can quickly pick up when a parent is in pain, and that can effect whether he or she engages in roughhousing with that parent. One mother, in a forum for parents living with pain, worries that she can’t pick her daughter up and has noticed that she will only play rough or tumble game with her daddy.
What a Pain Sufferer Mother Misses From Roughhousing
A mother describes her daughter’s roughing and tumbling as “…jumping up and down like a frog on the floor, which she loves, and pretending to be a lion and crawling around on the floor which she’s fantastic at and she loves improvising…she doesn’t even try to initiate it with me, she waits till daddy gets home and she’ll do it with him.” 
Obviously the child is not intentionally doing this to “hurt” her mother. In fact, she may doing it to protect mom. This of course can be emotionally tough for mom. She wants her child to act the way she perceives a child should act with her mother.
Employing Alternative Strategies to Manage Roughhousing
The challenges that a mom with chronic pain has are made worse by the pain. One of those challenges is managing roughhousing or tumble and play with a child. A lot of times picking up the child is not possible. This means that one has to use other means. Among other things, a mother in pain can do the following:
- Get the toddler to sit next to her. This way the toddler can climb up mummy’s leg and be a “spider” instead of mummy having to pick her up.
- Invite other kids to play. The kids can engage in other aspects of tumble and play with your child, like pretending to be their favorite animal. While they are doing all this pretending you can watch without the need to pick anyone up.
- Get the child, within reason, involved an activity that will make them feel good about helping you—like asking them to get you a glass of water. Walking from one place to another and returning with an item is one of the lessons in tumble and play. This is another way that distinguishes it from aggression. This is also another way of understanding parents with back pain and the benefits of roughhousing.
Whether you call it roughhousing or rough and tumble play, this is an activity that can help your kid gain self-control, social skills, flexible thinking, safe-aggression, and physical fitness. That said, pain often makes it difficult for a mom to engage in such an activity. However, with some ingenuity one can find a way to still interact with her child and help them become happy and often compassionate human beings. I hope this post has shed some light on parents with back pain and the benefits of roughhousing.
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