Headache in children and youth have a negative effect on the quality of living, especially on school performance, social interaction, and activities. Research is showing that headaches can also have a negative impact on mood and mental health in children and teenagers. Research has shown that adolescents suffering from migraines or recurring tension headaches have a higher incidence of problems with their behavior, attention, sleep, self-esteem, anxiety, and depression.
It is evident that children and teenagers are not only dealing with physical symptoms. We need to think about how we can support them in the emotional, as well as physical, and social aspects of headache conditions. Here are some ways to approach it.
1. Listen to their stories:
Young people can feel very isolated if they feel that they are missing out on important school days, activities, and socializing with their friends. It can be a shared experience that allows them to discuss the effects of migraines and is supported by others. We don’t have to dwell on every missed opportunity all the time. Encourage them to do their best, but let them vent when they are frustrated and validate what they have done.
2. Recognize your child’s distress and your own pain response to it.
It is well-known that pain distress can impact the ability to cope with and adjust to the pain. Normalizing your child’s pain and keeping calm is key. It is possible to support your child using coping techniques if they are unable to speak up. You could help them to relax. You could also do something together like deep breathing, relaxing music, walking, or watching a movie. We are more able to deal with pain if we are less stressed.
3. Talk about their needs at home as well as at school.
It is essential to allow your child to have a conversation about their difficulties. However, it is also important that they are able to identify and make suggestions. This can help them feel empowered in what can seem like a difficult situation. Talking to teachers and family members can help them see that everyone is there to support them. You could adjust to prompts for homework or time limits, as well as downtime after school and a wind down routine.
4. Encourage your child’s recognition of all aspects of his or her identity.
You may think that your child is defined by migraines. This can be especially true if they feel different to others when they take time off from school or wear tinted glasses. Recognize that migraines are a part of your child’s life. But there are many other aspects to their lives. Talk about the qualities they have (e.g. being kind, funny) rather than focusing on what they do and achieve. This can make it easy to feel dependent on their level of success.
5. Make it easy for your child to pursue their interests and hobbies.
Allow time for your child to pursue their interests. Make it manageable so that they can do more with less. You might agree to only go to half of the party or make a plan in case they get migraines.
6. Build confidence in your ability to make a difference
It can be difficult to feel different from others. But, we know that some people find being different an asset in their lives. It may be possible to share stories about role models who used their differences as an advantage or highlighted their individual qualities. It can help to have a clear response prepared for peers when dealing with them. This will allow them to answer inevitable questions and also guide the conversation to other topics, such as. “I have a migraine. But my glasses help me to cope with bright lights. Are you going to the canteen? You could do this together, or use other communication strategies about headaches. Learn more about migraine isolation and how to cope with it
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