Community Thoughts: Explaining Migraine to Your Children

A common theme in the questions we get from our community involves explaining migraine to one’s children. To find out more about the different ways people approach this sensitive aspect of life with migraine, we shared this question with our Facebook community: “My daughter is so disappointed when I can’t do things with her because of my migraines. How do you explain this to children? Does anyone have tips for me?” Read on for the community’s ideas – and share your own in the comments!

I have found specific resources helpful:

  • I found a really good short video about what it’s like to have a migraine. I showed it to my children – they now have a little understanding on how Mommy feels during an attack and that we can’t do things.
  • If your child is young and likes the Disney channel try relating your story through the likes of Doc McStuffins – the child may have better understanding that way.

I have specific suggestions on what has worked for me and my family: 

  • Could you lay and cuddle or fall asleep cuddling with her while she’s watching a movie? Or could you let her know mom needs to rest now, but what would you like to do later and as soon as I’m feeling better we will do exactly that?
  • Make a wish box. When you can not do something with your daughter, fill a box that you make with her, with things she would like to do when you are feeling better. After a migraine let her grab a wish from the box. Read it together and go have fun. The special times you have together at these times will erase the initial disappointment.
  • It makes me so sad that my 3-year-old son is so concerned and frequently asking, “Is your head painful now?” I tell him that yes it is, but mommy’s gonna be okay and not to worry… but that if he wants he can give me a hug, it will soothe my heart.
  • I try to get as much quality time as possible with [my son] when I feel okay, letting daddy do the dishes for example while I play with my son. If I’m alone with my son and I have to rest in my bed, he gets an extra TV time or iPad playtime. I still feel guilty, but not as much as before, knowing I do fun stuff with him when I can and that really, playing with the iPad is for him a little party!
  • We have to find strategies that accommodate both our illness and our kids. And repeat to ourselves that we did not choose to have pain!
  • My sweet mother suffered terrible migraines when I was a child long ago. I remember sometimes just laying in bed with my mother and cuddling. Sometimes after her migraines she would make a cake or cupcakes and surprise us when we came home from school. Even through her migraines, I knew I was loved. That was all I needed. Her grace still came through the pain. Thankful for sweet memories of her too.
  • My poor son is 13 years old and has seemed to had a lifetime of experience of this. He’s no longer resentful he’s more understanding, but that took many years. It took an emergency room doctor showing him my MRI and how the blood vessels were different from normal ones for him to understand how serious the pain was when he was 9. I know that can’t happen for everyone and not all kids would understand but I guess I was lucky.
  • I found honesty works. Let them help make you better. My granddaughter just loves to help make papaw feel good, she’s six. Grandma gives her my pills in a old pill bottle and an ice pack, and she will not quit badgering me till I take my medicine. She even gets me a cold wet wash cloth. Including them means the world to them. 

Sometimes we even find a bright side:

  • I’m just thankful that they are learning compassion for others, even though the world isn’t.
  • It sucks for us and causes guilt, but when they know no different, it’s not as big of a deal to them. Just like it has always been a normal part of running errands for us to go to the pharmacy. They learn empathy, compassion, and consideration earlier than most.
  • My sons learned too to be quiet and watch a movie. I think we called it a storm in my head. As they have grown older, they have an appreciation for the girlfriend who feels bad or in my middle son’s case, he suffers from migraines and knows what the pain is about. In an odd way it’s been an empathy builder.

What about you and your family? How do you explain migraine to your children? Please let us know in the comments! 

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