Children Coping With their Parents' Strokes

Deanne Stein Health Guide
  • When I was having my stroke in 2001, I had one constant thought … my son. Of course I wanted to pull through and survive, but I mainly wanted to do that for my son. He was only 7 years old at the time and with so much going on with me, we seldom thought about how it affected him. In the months following my stroke, I was going through rehabilitation. My mother lived with me because I simply couldn’t care for my son like before. I couldn’t move my right arm from the shoulder down. Being right-handed, it was especially hard to do the simplest tasks. I remember, I couldn’t dress myself, put on makeup or do my hair the way I wanted.
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    My son had different issues. Issues I didn’t realize until later. His grades were getting bad and the teachers complained that he was acting up and not paying attention. In fact, they suggested he had ADHD. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurological condition related, in part, to the brain's chemistry and anatomy. The doctor basically went through a check-list of symptoms. It wasn’t anything medical, just more of a Q&A. Questions like does he have trouble concentrating or does he have mood swings? Of course he did. So, his doctor put him on Concerta, a once a day stimulant used to treat kids with ADHD. I didn’t want to put him on drugs, but going through my recovery, I didn’t have the energy, physically or mentally, to fight it. I went with the doctor’s recommendation and put him on the medication. Honestly, I didn’t notice much change. So, the doctor increased the dosage. Again, my son still had fears and anxieties, only now he was just a zombie, all drugged up with no personality. He did improve at school, though. He wasn’t acting up as much. But “as much” wasn’t enough of a change for me to justify keeping him on the drug. I took him off it after less than a year.

    I believe some children do have ADHD and medication can really help those who are diagnosed correctly. I’m convinced my son never had ADHD. It was simply a quick fix for teachers and doctors. I believe the fears and anxieties came from the fact I, his mother, nearly died from a stroke.

    After my stroke, my son would worry constantly about death and ask about my boo-boo in my head (where I had a blood clot). He always wondered if it would happen again, or worse happen to him.

    I think what helped most with my son was communicating. Even though he was so young, I tried to explain what happened to me. I know he didn’t understand exactly what happened, but I think the fact that I constantly talked about it helped. I mean, I couldn’t keep it a secret from him. He could see for himself that I wasn’t the way I used to be. We also drew a lot of pictures, a great way to express your feelings. His pictures mainly consisted of the two of us. We were holding hands or playing games.

    He also helped me in my rehabilitation. That’s another thing I did. I tried to include him in everything. I told him I needed to keep working to get better. I had several exercises I could do at home. I had him help me by holding the elastic bands. He felt like he was helping mom get better and in turn, we turned a scary situation into a positive one.

  • My son is still concerned about stroke and death, even now at 12 years old. But we do many things as a family to put those fears to rest. I stress the importance of eating healthy and we even bought bicycles and ride together. He loves video games, but is still active in sports at school.
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    I can’t promise my son he’ll never have a stroke, and I tell him, yes one day you will die. There is just no way around that. But he also knows we have to enjoy all the days we do have together. Even though he understands it, he still tells me he’s going to invent a potion one day so everyone can live forever. You gotta love kids!!

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Published On: August 09, 2006