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How can I keep parenting during a Migraine?

When my children were small, I was lucky that I didn’t experience Migraine attacks as frequently as I have them now. Still, when you have small kids, it’s never convenient to be hit with something like a Migraine.

My husband was frequently out of state for weeks at a stretch, and with no family nearby I was left to my own devices when I got “sick”. As a horse trainer, I had years before adopted the phrase — “Plan for the worst, hope for the best” — a bit of wisdom that kept me out of lots of trouble. When it came to trying to be a parent with Migraine, I learned early on to adopt that same attitude to my illness.

One of the first things we put together was my Migraine bag — a nifty bag of tools hat helped me get through those rough patches. Eventually I figured out that my little tool bag needed an addition to help my kids get through those tough days too. After a long and cramped car ride from Missouri to Oregon with a 7 and 3 yr old, we came up with the kids’ survival bag — an add-on to my already handy Migraine bag.

The trick is to keep the kids busy and quiet with something new and exciting that they usually don’t have the opportunity to experience in normal day-to-day life. The tip is to be sure their physical needs are met in ways that are just as new and interesting to them.

When my children saw me feeling Migrainey, they were happy to go to the closet and pull out the special Migraine bag for me so they could spend the day doing the quiet activities they knew were hidden inside in their kids’ survival bag. Changing the contents of the bag from time to time kept them excited at the potential for something completely new to try for the day. Letting them pick out new items for the bag during shopping trips made breaking out the bag even more exciting for them. Here is the second post in this series with instructions how to make your own kids’ survival bag.

The key really is keeping the contents fresh and new. Having multiple bags inside the bag also made for some fun. This allowed me to hand them one small bag of activities and set the timer for them. When the timer went off, it was time to change to something completely new!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Janene Zielinski
    9 years ago

    My husband was out of town one day and I picked up my kids from theatre camp one afternoon and realized I couldn’t drive home with the migraine. I went to a nearby McDonalds and took my Imitrex while I kept handing my kids money for happy meals. This was back with the teenie beanie baby craze. After they each had about 4 toys they played happily for a couple hours, very used to moms migraines. I was moaning and so sick with my head down on the table! I finally left when I realized people around me thought I was some kind of a druggie and I was worried someone was going to call social services on me. Amazing how people assume the worst and no one asked if they could help. My kids are now grown and love to tell the story of spending 3 hours in a McDonalds. Ultimately, the kids were safe and thankfully I finally got ahold of someone to get us home. The Migraine “bag” you describe is a great idea! (Happy Meals are expensive!)

  • Erin
    9 years ago

    I will have to get a bag together soon. I have already had 2 migraines in the past 4 days. My daughter was also been diagnosed last year, but does not get them as frequent as I do. She is only 4. I will make her a little bag for hers and then one for mine along with one for everyone.

  • Betsy Blondin
    9 years ago

    That’s an excellent idea, Ellen. I never thought of anything that creative; I used to turn on Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers and lie/sleep on the couch while my children watched TV.

    Fortunately, my husband was wonderful and would simply take over on evenings or weekends when I was sick. I don’t know what I would have done otherwise.

    I have often felt so sad and guilty over times when I wasn’t 100 percent there for my children, but you know what? Now that they are grown I ask them if my migraine life made theirs bad in any way, and they reply that they hardly knew anything was amiss!

    So there you go. Either I was very good at hiding it or children are just much more adaptable and resilient than we realize! 🙂

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