Migraine and Kids: How Parents Can Help

Our Move Against Migraine group shares their thoughts on how to support a child with migraine

Parents of children with migraine become their child’s champion. They are their child’s advocate, #1 supporter, teacher and more. Children often don’t have the words to articulate their pain, or understand how to communicate what they’re experiencing, making the road to management that much more difficult. Teachers, friends and sadly doctors at times dismiss the child’s complaints attributing it to school phobia or attention-seeking behavior. This is why parents need to step up and advocate for their kids.

We asked our Move Against Migraine support group about the challenges and triumphs of parenting a child with migraine, from dealing with schools, to helping them find balance. Here are their tips for supporting a child with migraine:

Show Empathy: You Get What They’re Going Through

Migraine is often a family affair—there is a 50-75% chance that a child will have migraine if one or both of their parents have the disease. If a parent has experienced migraine, they understand a lot of the emotions associated with an attack, such as fear, sadness and guilt.

MAM member ZaDaysha had migraine as a child and is now raising a daughter with migraine. ZaDaysha understands what her daughter is going through.

“I sympathize with her,” ZaDaysha says. “I make sure she has [her medication], ice packs and a quiet room.”

Download our guide: Caring for a Child with Migraine

For MAM member Angie, recognizing her sons’ pain was an important part of helping them, something she wishes her parents were able to do for her as a child.

“I know their pain is real since I’ve battled chronic migraine for 30 years,” Angie says. “I reacted nothing like my parents did…I wasn’t going to let [my sons] suffer in silence.”

When to Call the Doctor

When it comes to migraine and kids, bringing a headache specialist into a child’s migraine support network gives parents the opportunity to consult an expert on their child’s behalf. Parents and children should work to develop a good relationship with their headache specialist or neurologist so that the doctor can best serve the family. This includes helping to set up a 504 plan for school, an action plan for how the school will provide support and remove barriers for a student with a disability.

MAM member Diane started taking her daughter to see a pediatric neurologist, then began visiting a headache specialist.

“Taking her to a pediatric neurologist who specializes in headache medicine turned out to offer much better options,” says Diane, adding that her daughter’s doctor “understood the importance of letters for school for the 504 accommodations.”

Doctors are an important part of a migraine support team. If you are searching for a medical professional near you, we have a tool on our website to help you find a doctor.

Advocating and Accommodating 

Migraine takes a lot out of a person, which makes it especially difficult to be a kid living with migraine. Luckily, there are many accommodations that parents can advocate for to help minimize migraine attack frequency and maximize a child’s ability to thrive.

After speaking with her daughter’s school, MAM member Chrissy advocated for her daughter to leave during events that could trigger her daughter’s migraine, such as pep rallies.

“Her teachers also give her paper tests with extra time, as [being on] the computers too long gives her headaches,” Chrissy says.

Being a child’s advocate isn’t always easy. For MAM member Diane, working with her child’s school meant educating teachers and administrators about the impact of migraine.

“It was a hard road and many battles with [the] administration who thought migraine was the equivalent of a hangnail,” Diane says. “[We did] our best to educate her school so that they would help her instead of penalizing her for having an illness.”

Lifestyle Changes for Kids with Migraine

There are many factors that could contribute to why a person experiences migraine. This is why maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help lessen the impact of migraine. Outside of handling a child’s medication for migraine treatment, it is important for parents to manage their child’s lifestyle with migraine in mind.

MAM moderator Rachel lives with migraine and so does her son, so she had an idea of what changes were needed in order to help him better manage migraine.

“We made major changes to his lifestyle habits and got strict on consistency with [his] sleep and wake cycle, diet, exercise and stress relief,” Rachel says.

Consistency is important in migraine management. Spikes in stress, a reduction in sleep, an increase in screen time or any other changes can increase the frequency or severity of migraine attacks. Parents should work with their child to find ways to keep their lifestyle consistent.

The American Migraine Foundation is committed to improving the lives of those living with this debilitating disease. With this in mind, AMF founded Move Against Migraine, a Facebook group a mission to provide support and solutions for people with migraine and their loved ones. Join today to learn more. You can also share your story to show the world what migraine looks like and how it affects people every day. Together, we are as relentless as migraine.