It is well-known that headaches can have a negative impact upon quality of life for children and young adults, particularly on school performance and participation in activities. Research shows that it can have an impact on young people’s mental and emotional health. Study after study found that teenagers with migraine or recurrent tension headaches had a higher level of anxiety and depression.

Together, it is clear that headaches can affect young people of all ages. These are some ideas on how to approach the problem.

1. Hear their experiences:

For young people, it can be very difficult to feel like they are missing out on important school events, social activities and time with their friends. Giving them the space to share their experiences with migraines and to be supported can make it feel more like a shared experience. It doesn’t mean that we should always be focusing on the missed opportunities. It’s okay to encourage them to do the best they can, but it’s important to allow them to express their frustrations and validate their experiences.

2. Recognize the emotions of your child and yourself when you are experiencing pain or distress.

We all know that distress over pain can make it difficult to adjust and cope with the pain. It is important to help your child feel normal when they are experiencing pain. Also, it is important to keep them calm and be as positive as possible. Supporting your child with coping strategies is a great way to help them if they don’t want to talk about what is happening. Helping them relax is one example. Relaxation can also be something you do together, such as deep breaths, listening to relaxation music or going for walks. Being less anxious about pain will help you cope better.

3. Discuss their needs at school as well as at home.

Allowing your child to express their feelings and concerns is crucial for normalizing and validating their experience. It’s also important to help your child think about solutions. It might be worth sitting down with teachers or as a family to support your child. These adjustments could include homework prompts, time limits for assignments and downtime right after they return from school.

4. Encourage your child to recognize all aspects of their identity.

It is possible for your child to feel like migraines are defining who they are. You need to recognize that migraine is a part and parcel of their daily life. However, there are many other things that can be done. It is important to discuss their strengths (e.g., kindness, humor) and not just what they accomplish or do. They can feel dependent upon how well they are doing.

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5. You can help your child make their hobbies and interests manageable.

Give your child time to explore interests and other important areas in their lives. If they are interested in going to a party, you may agree to take smaller steps like agreeing to attend half of it. Or you might make a plan for if a migraine occurs during the party.

6. Building confidence about differences is possible with practice

Although it can be challenging to feel different than others, some people find that being different is a positive aspect of their lives. Perhaps you can think of role models that have used your differences to your advantage or to highlight your personal strengths. When dealing with peers it is helpful to have a ready response that they can offer to any inevitable questions. Some prefer to explain clearly and in a manageable way, while also giving direction. “I have a migraine. But it’s okay because my glasses help with bright lights. Is it possible to go to the canteen with me? This or other methods for communicating about migraines could be used together. Learn more about migraine and isolation, and how to deal with it

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