Parent Tips: Helping Your Child With Chronic Daily Headache
It can be frustrating and heart-wrenching to see your child in pain days on end. Often, parents may feel helpless or aimless in their quest to ease their child’s suffering. We understand that you may have advocated for your child with several doctors prior to your appointment with Akron Children's Hospital's headache clinic.
Beyond supporting the headache hygiene tips and trigger avoidance, parents can play an active role in their child’s recovery from chronic daily headache.
Please keep the following in mind:
- Follow medical advice for dispensing medications according to the directions and recommended time sequence. Avoid changing medicines without speaking with your doctor first.
- Praise your child for maintaining a normal daily schedule, whether or not they experience a headache. Headache pain often subsides after returning to a regular daily schedule.
- Encourage your child to stay calm and practice their headache management skills (i.e., what they can do to reduce pain or tolerate his day better).
- Set the expectation for daily school attendance. Days absent from school should be treated as sick days (e.g., rest in bed, no TV, no socializing with friends, go to bed early).
- Ignore excessive complaining, gestures of pain, and requests for special treatment. Encourage other adults to do the same. By repeatedly responding to complaints and pain gestures, you may inadvertently be limiting your child’s self-confidence in managing headaches independently.
- Avoid questioning your child frequently about her pain because this will direct her attention toward pain. Limit how often you talk about the extent of pain. Instead, talk about how pain is managed and what seems to work best.
- For additional support, consider the book “Conquering Your Child’s Chronic Pain” by Lonnie Zeltzer, MD.
Here are recommendations for how to respond to your child during a headache episode (adapted from Hillier and McGrath, 2001):
- First, briefly assess how intense the pain is. Listen to your child and observe your child’s pain behaviors. It is not necessary to always discuss the intensity of pain in detail.
- Follow the medical treatment plan as to which medicines to take (if any).
- Help your child choose a non-drug strategy to use, whether he takes medicine or not.
- Praise your child’s efforts in managing the pain. Always describe what your child did well.
- The following day, review with your child aspects of her day which may have contributed to headache, including school, sports, friends or family. Come up with ways to reduce emotional upset and the impact of life stressors.