The challenges of parenting are compounded if your child has epilepsy. Not only do you have the normal concerns about raising a child, but now you have to address emotional concerns both you and your child may have arising out of living and dealing with epilepsy.
Emotional Toll of Epilepsy
It’s natural for a child who has a chronic illness or who is different from other children to feel resentful. Children with an illness such as epilepsy may develop emotional problems, such as poor self-esteem or depression. These problems may come from within (anger, embarrassment, frustration), or from outside (children with epilepsy may be teased by other children).
As a parent, you can help your child deal with these feelings:
- Make sure your child understands as much about his or her disease as possible. Fortunately there are many resources available specifically for children.
- Try to get your child to be positive about his or her disease and focus on things he or she can do. Having epilepsy may place some restrictions on your child. But in general, your child should be able to take part in most activities he or she wants to take part in.
- Help your child accept being a “different normal” and accept that there will be some risk involved in activities.
As for your other children and the rest of your family, there are things you can do to help them adjust:
- Be sure your other children understand about their sibling’s illness. If they are feeling neglected, try to spend more time with them.
- If you think it’s necessary, seek family counseling to help everyone understand how to deal with the illness.
- Let your extended family know about your child’s illness and answer any questions they may have.
- Try to educate everyone on what to do if your child has a seizure. That way, they will not be afraid of witnessing one.
Children and Epilepsy Drugs
If your child is taking epilepsy drugs, you can work with your child’s doctor to make sure that your child is taking them correctly. You will need to:
- Learn the schedule for the medications (how many times a day to take them, whether they should be taken with food, etc.).
- Find out what to do if your child forgets to take a dose of medication.
- Know if any of the medications require blood tests.
- Be aware of the potential side effects of the medications and what to do about them.
- Ask the doctor what to do if your child is ill or has a fever. (Fever sometimes brings on seizures.)
- Make sure your child’s school knows that he or she takes epilepsy medication, and that arrangements are made for him or her to take it at school (if necessary).
- Always carry a detailed list of your child’s medications.
What Else Can I Do to Protect My Child?
If your child has epilepsy, monitor him or her near water, whether at home or outside.
Here are some tips for inside the home:
- Keep an eye on your child while he or she is in the bathtub.
- Make sure the bathroom door opens outward rather than inward so that it can still be opened in case your child falls. Take the locks off the bathroom door.
- Check the bathtub drain to make sure it’s working properly.
- Keep the water in the tub at low levels.
- Keep the water temperature low to prevent scalding.
- Install a shower or tub seat with a safety strap in the tub for older children.
- Keep all electrical appliances away from the sink or bathtub.
Outside the home:
- Don’t let a child with epilepsy swim alone.
- Make sure all adults, including the lifeguards and swimming instructors, know that your child has epilepsy.
- If your child has a seizure while swimming, get him or her out of the water as soon as possible. If anything seems wrong, contact the doctor right away.