Having migraine can be extremely challenging, but for me, the difficulty level increases exponentially because I’m responsible for raising young children. I’ve noticed that most reasonable adults (whether they experience migraine or not) are able to display some level of understanding when a loved one or colleague complains of debilitating migraine symptoms.
Toddlers? Not so much.
To help them better understand, here are 5 simple ways to talk to your toddlers about migraine:
Because migraine isn’t something you can see like a broken arm or an open wound, my toddlers wondered how “real” the pain really was. Sometimes my kids thought I was making up stories to avoid spending time with them, which couldn’t be further from the truth. I make sure to do everything I can to reassure them that my pain had absolutely nothing to do with them.
Just like I don’t want to see my kids suffering, my kids don’t want to see me hurting either. In the event my kids refuse to let me rest alone, they may try to come up with different “remedies” in order to help — and that’s OK. By letting them know that a simple hug can help, that allows me to get some much-needed rest and enjoy some bonding time with my children.
When I tried to explain aura, nausea, and light sensitivity to my kids, I received the kind of blank stares you would expect from tiny humans who aren’t even potty trained. But simple analogies can go a long way in helping them understand your pain. When talking with my toddlers, I told them it felt like tiny trolls were hammering inside my head or like a balloon that was about to pop due to pressure. They understood that either example wouldn’t be a pleasant experience.
I admit that I haven’t always been great at displaying vulnerability in front of my children. Sometimes when I’m sad, I don’t cry — or if I’m in pain, I power through it. But I realized that if I’m teaching my kids that honesty is the best policy, why don’t I do the same thing with my health? There’s nothing “weak” about telling our kids that we are in pain. In fact, I know now that if I’m forthright about my health, it will teach my kids to do the same.
The effects of my migraine can be so powerful at times that it scared my kids into believing it could be life-threatening. Yes, it is a debilitating disease that has taken many days from my life, and it may be the worst thing in the world at the time, but it too shall pass. It’s been a tough balancing act to not downplay its severity while still informing my kids that I’ll get through it — but it’s one that I’ll continue to work on as time goes on.
Keep in mind, these are just starting points that can be used when talking to toddlers about migraine, and each parent should find the strategies that work best for them. Speaking of which — it’s much better to talk to them before a migraine attack than during one. At the end of the day, migraine is something that parents should be educated on so we can properly educate our kids.
Doyin R. is a real migraine patient. He has been compensated for his time.