Migraine disease can be a frustrating animal. You never know exactly when the next one will strike or when you will come into contact with a trigger. For children, the frustration can easily become overwhelming.
Frustration should be considered the secondary pain component of Migraine in this mom’s opinion. The pain of Migraine frustration can manifest in depression, anger, guilt, and even behavioral changes. The fact that many people mistakenly think Migraine is just a headache can compound the frustration.
Here’s what you can do to help children deal with the frustration of having Migraine disease:
Give them accurate and age-appropriate information.
Most children can handle some basic information about Migraine. It is very important, in an age-appropriate way, to give your child a clear understanding of their disease. As painful as Migraine attacks are, they can be really scary if you don’t understand the condition.
Let them know that they are not responsible for their Migraine attacks.
Many well-intentioned people will list things that your child should not have done, because if they hadn’t done those things then they wouldn’t have Migraine. But that’s not how it works.
Migraine is a neurological disease. It’s tantamount to telling someone with asthma that if they didn’t try to breathe they wouldn’t wheeze. Now, don’t get me wrong, if you find triggers that set off your attacks teach them to your child, but make sure they do not feel guilty when they have an attack.
Let them vent their feelings.
There have been many times when my daughter will just need to complain, vent, or cry. It can be stressful to deal with a chronic illness, and moments of anger are totally normal.
It’s important to be reassuring and remind your child that while it may be bad now, there are also a lot of good days and, thankfully, treatments that work. If you find that your child is experiencing an excessive level of frustration, consider having him talk with a counselor about their feelings about having a chronic illness.
Give them some control.
Again, the amount of control each child can have depends on their age. Children as young as five can use a migraine or headache journal. You can also help to teach them to identify signs that a Migraine attack might be coming on so they can alert you to get their abortive medication quickly.
Set up support for missed school work.
School can be challenging for kids who get frequent Migraine attacks. Be sure that the school nurse and teachers are informed and set up a plan ahead of time that can help when your child needs to miss a class or homework is late.
For example, our daughter’s teachers limited the amount of make-up work to the essentials (as long as she understood it) instead of giving her multiple assignments on the same topic. Your child may also need other school accommodations which can be further discussed in a 504 plan.
Find fun activities to help your child relieve stress.
Finding fun ways to relax can be great for decompressing a stressed-out kid with Migraine—whether it be yoga, listening to music, massage, deep breathing exercises, or jumping on a trampoline. It really doesn’t matter what the activity is as long as your child ends up relaxed or giggling and you don’t unintentionally trigger an attack. Giving kids with chronic illness time to just be kids is profoundly important.
While this is not an exhaustive list, it should give you some helpful tips for helping your little one with Migraine to relieve frustration. Again, if you feel that your child is becoming depressed or exhibiting anxiety, please seek the help of a counselor.
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Jennifer Rackley is a nutritionist and mother of three girls. Two of her children have dealt with acid reflux disease, food allergies, migraines, and asthma. She has a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Harding University and has done graduate work in public health and nutrition through Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to writing for HealthCentral, she does patient consults and serves on the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association.