Being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) can be overwhelming. And while you don’t want to feel like a burden, relying on your family and friends can make things a lot easier.

You may feel alone after your diagnosis, but chances are your family members are experiencing a lot of these same emotions. It’s a time of fear, anxiety, and change for all.

Use the following tips to learn how to talk to your loved ones about your MS and get the help and support that you need.

Talking to Your Spouse or Partner

Your diagnosis will inevitably impact the life of your spouse or partner. Just like you needed time to absorb the diagnosis, they’ll need time to accept it too. You may worry about upsetting them and part of you may not want to take on their concerns and feelings when you’re still trying to come to grips with your own. But starting the discussion is the first step in accepting and facing this new challenge together.

Talk openly about your diagnosis and provide your partner with any information you can about your diagnosis and treatment plan. Give them the option to attend your medical appointments. Professional emotional support, such as partner or individual counselling, can also be helpful.

Telling Your Parents

Parents often feel a lot of guilt when their child is diagnosed with MS. No matter your age, it’s not uncommon for parents to feel somehow responsible. Sadness and worry are also common concerns.

You may decide to wait until you’ve have time to accept your diagnosis before telling your parents. When you do decide to tell your parents, give them information about your condition and do your best not to raise any alarm bells.

Telling Your Children

As a parent, you’re in the best position to know how much your children can handle. Use this to decide how much you’ll tell them about your diagnosis and how you’ll go about it.

Children are naturally inquisitive, so be prepared to answer their questions. Let them know that they can talk to you about their concerns. They may be worried that they somehow caused you to get MS or that they can catch it.

Assure your children by acknowledging their concerns, being careful not to make them feel as though their questions are silly or upsetting. And if you don’t have an answer for a question, tell them you’ll do your best to get an answer.

Let your children know what will change because of your MS. Children can be resilient and they can adapt to change easily.

Your children will take their cue from you. When you tell them about your MS, avoid speaking in a panicked tone. Also, make eye contact to show your confidence and to gauge their reaction to the news.

Helping You Helps Them

You may worry that asking your family for help will make you a burden, but your loved ones want to be there for you and do what they can to help.

Loved ones will feel useful if they’re included in your care. Some may even go overboard and try doing too much because of their own sense of helplessness. Let them know what kind of help or support you want and need from them.

Here are just a few ways your family and friends can help you:

  • cooking dinner when you’re experiencing fatigue or other symptoms
  • watching the kids on days that you have medical appointments
  • going for a walk with you for exercise, or simply because you could use the company

Asking for help doesn’t make you less capable. It makes your diagnosis easier to handle so that you can focus on taking care of yourself.