Parenting Tips

Staying mentally on top of our game when we have Migraine can be really tough. It’s even more difficult if depression or other mental illness is comorbid with the Migraine beast, especially if that Migraine problem has become chronic.

As parents, it is tough enough to make it through 18 years with our child and not also be hit with the guilt monster even if we are healthy and not also going through mental challenges. Adding Migraine to the mix makes going through periods of guilt and depression over the affect our Migraine has had on our families, inevitable.

Yes it’s true — you are not alone.

The thing about this situation is that there are so many helpful things we can do to make parenting our kids through our (or their) Migraine disease more manageable. Throughout the years with my own kids now 22 and 26, we came up with some helpful tips I’d love to share. These are by no means all the tips *out there*. I’ll bet you have some tips you could share with us, and I truly hope you will in the comments section of this article.

Tips to getting rid of the guilt and negativism:

  • Don’t try to treat the Migraineur differently. Adjusting how the entire family shops, eats, plays etc not only helps the Migraineur feel less guilt, it helps the rest of the family understand and become educated about Migraine disease — something they may have to deal with later in life.
  • Remember the importance of spontaneity. We never know when the good days are going to hit, and when the bad days will be a problem. Leave yourself open to the possibilities that plans may change, and include a “plan B” in case life is interrupted by an attack. Just as important is a “plan B” for when an especially great day presents itself. Embrace those fun spontaneous times you can share as a family by remembering them in photos and video, and by sharing the experience with those around you. This helps minimize the negative impact of Migraine on your family’s life as well as the perceived negative connotations of Migraine Disease by those around you.
  • Don’t play the Blame Game. Living with Migraine Disease is something that just…. Is. It is nobody’s fault. It’s not even Migraine’s fault. Constantly blaming Migraine or the Migraineur for changes in plans and lifestyle is not constructive for anyone, including those outside your family unit. The fact is, plans and lifestyle must change, that’s simply the way it is. Plans and lifestyles also change with a new pet, a move, bad weather and growing older. If someone *needs* an excuse for the changes, reminding them of the limitations of Migraine Disease can be helpful, but don’t cling to them. These are the facts of life and accepting them goes a LONG way toward a healthier attitude, less stress and guilt.
  • Remember one-on-one time. Spending special time with each individual child is vital toward forging a strong and lasting relationship with them. Making this time spontaneous is often the easiest way to make it happen, and causes less letdown if plans must change. One-on-one time may be as simple as asking a child to help you plan and shop for the menu for the week, to a surprise trip to the park for a picnic or a few minutes together throwing snowballs at each other after school when it snows. One of my favorite memories with my mom was the day she (without warning) took me out of school so we could go to the beach on one of her work trips. It is one of the best memories I’ve ever had with her.
  • Share a fun secret. Parents often forget the excitement of keeping a secret as well as the special feeling of inclusion you get when someone shares a secret with you. A fun secret can help forge strong bonds between children and parents. I have included one child in on a secret plan for the other child, asking their help to make something special happen. This of course must be reciprocated in some way, so don’t forget that if you share a secret with one child, you need to find a way to do the same thing with the other children. Don’t make the shared secret something that will cause stress to the child — keep it fun so the excitement level is increased and it causes extra smiles in your day.
  • Get creative with Migraine limitations. Ideas for this range from helping children create quilt blocks for a special Migraine blanket, to asking for their help in finding and making new Migraine friendly recipes for family dinner or making a special decorative basket to contain Migraine medicines. Our family created a special chore chart when I was chronic. This allowed the kids to choose the chores they did every day, and to be rewarded for them — each chore = a quarter, and if all the chores were completed that day they received their reward for a jar that collected change for a special shopping trip later. I didn’t have to bug them when I felt badly, and the kids were happy about doing things that were necessary.
  • Maintain choices and discipline. Kids must practice making choices if they are to grow up and be able to make them effectively as adults. It also helps them to feel like an integral part of the family. It gives them a sense of power over their own lives and destinies at a time when they feel like power and destiny are two things beyond their grasp. Allowing your children to make choices also eliminates the need for you to make those choices for them and can be very freeing for the parent. Choices like what to wear or where to put away toys has little bearing on real concerns of life, yet allows kids to exercise this important muscle. Discipline can be hard when someone in the family is Migraining, but the consistency of it is necessary to family harmony and raising kids that grow up to be responsible members of society. It’s easy to run slack on both of these when Migraine is in the picture, but Migraine Disease doesn’t stop the world from turning on without us. In fact, Migraine is a reason for kids to need to learn to be more responsible, not less.
  • Written by: Ellen Schnakenberg | January 2012