Marie's story: Tips for parents with MS

Marie,* age 37, has been living with MS for the past 5 years. When her sons Nicholas and Bradley started school a few years ago, Marie struggled with back-to-school stress. Mornings were completely chaotic as she rushed to get the boys out the door and herself off to work. Homework was falling through the cracks, and Marie's fatigue made it hard to keep up with the boys' frantic school and extracurricular schedules. She felt as though things were falling apart, so she decided to make some changes.

Before the new school year started, Marie visited the boys' school to meet their teachers. She made sure to find out which supplies the boys needed; got a copy of the school rules about dress codes, behaviour, and starting times; and found out the school's contact information so she could keep in touch and let them know if they were running late.

A week before school started again that year, Marie helped her family get into a new daily routine. Now, Nick and Brad wake up and go to bed at the same time every day. They know who gets to take the first shower in the morning and how long they have to do each morning activity.

To deal with the morning rush, Marie set aside some time the night before to get ready for the next day. She would lay out clothes for the next day, make lunches, and pack bags so there were fewer things to do the following morning. And to help save her energy, she got the boys to help with getting their lunches and school clothes ready.

She also talked to Nick and Brad about their extracurricular activities, and told them it was okay to stop doing ones they didn't really like. This helped make their schedules more manageable.

Marie then scheduled activities with her MS symptoms in mind. She set up a time to help her kids with their homework when she was at her most alert and well-rested. She also organized a carpool with other parents so she didn't need to drive the boys to school and extracurricular activities every day. This gave her more time and energy to deal with homework and household chores.

What can we learn from Marie's story? You too can conquer back-to-school stress by getting your family into a routine, planning ahead, keeping your MS symptoms in mind when scheduling activities, and getting help from others, including your kids.

* The stories in this health feature are hypothetical patient stories based on the combined experiences of a variety of different people with MS.

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