Childhood stroke can have an effect on the whole family. Parents often feel a range of emotions from shock and bewilderment to feelings of isolation and frustration. Research shows that childhood stroke can affect a parent's emotions and health, so it is important to look after yourself.
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Other children in the family can be affected in different ways. They may not understand what is happening to their brother or sister, which can be upsetting and confusing. They might not be able to cope with what has happened, and could be embarrassed by their sibling, especially in a school environment. They may even be jealous of the attention, care and money that their sibling is receiving because of their stroke. All of these reactions and emotions are normal.
If family members want to help you, think of ways that they can ease some of the pressures you are facing. They might be able to help you with the other children's routine, food shopping or keeping your household chores under control. They could spend time at the hospital with your child so you could see your other children, or give you time to sleep and have a break from the situation. Working together will help you cope better and come to terms with the stroke. On this page you'll find a list of useful tips to help you and your family cope with the effects of stroke.
Tips to help your child cope
Talk to your child about the stroke, try to answer all their questions. Encourage them to write lists of their questions to ask the doctor. Use simple and easy language.
Reassure them that it is ok to be scared or upset.
Try to keep your child in touch with their friends. Most hospitals have areas where mobile phones can be used. Friends can visit, or talk via video link on a mobile device.
Be involved in your child's recovery and help them practise their exercises regularly. Focus on small steps forward and be positive about the future. Celebrate progress.
Tips to help parents cope
Learn about your child's condition and do not feel scared to ask. Write down any questions you want to ask the nurses and doctors. The more you ask, the more you will understand how best to support your child. You can ask for a second opinion, or ask to see a specialist doctor or therapist.
You might find it helpful to keep a diary or log of your child's treatment and recovery.
Ask if you can help with your child's care in hospital. Help to wash them, play with them and feed them.
Have a break! Taking time out is essential, so you can revitalise yourself and come back feeling refreshed.
Family and friends will rally around at times like this. Their support and care is invaluable, but it can be draining keeping everyone updated. Nominate someone to pass on the news or set up an email list.
Talk to people about how you are feeling. Speak to your family, friends, helplines and support groups so you can meet other people in a similar situation. Some parents tell us that they have found support by meeting other parents of children with stroke on social media.
Tips to help siblings cope
Use simple, child-friendly language when talking about stroke. Use pictures and websites like the animations on our 'childhood stroke resources' page to help you.
Try to answer your children's questions honestly and prepare yourself for answers that can be upsetting or difficult. Do not avoid subjects. Your children will be more likely to worry and make up their own explanation for what is happening.
If you're visiting the doctor, ask your children to write down any questions that they have. Include them in the situation.
Spend a portion of time with each of your children. Having dedicated time for each child may help to avoid jealousy or rivalry.
Include them in helping with any rehabilitation exercises and games, but ensure this should not become a big responsibility for them. You should also discourage them from talking on behalf of their brother or sister if they have a speech problem.
If you think they feel embarrassed by their sibling, talk to them about it. Try to see it from their perspective and reassure them that they're not in trouble. Give them an explanation card explaining what a stroke is so if people stare they can hand it to them.