The Fear Factor: Teaching Children Not to Fear Epilepsy

A seizure can be a scary event for both parent and child. Many parents say they feared their child might die or suffer irreparable damage when they witnessed them having a seizure for the first time.

The good news is that most seizures end spontaneously after a few minutes, although the child might be confused temporarily afterwards. The majority of people can control their seizures effectively with proper medical treatment. But even when everything works out fine in the end, getting over our fears can take time.

Learning about epilepsy is a good way to start the healing process because we fear most what we don’t understand. Your child is going to look to you for guidance during this time, so equipping yourself with an understanding of epilepsy will help you help your child.

Talking about a frightening event helps remove the fear

Imagine that you are a child and suddenly wake up on the floor, the adults hovering anxiously around you – maybe your mother is crying. Everyone is nervously telling you that you’re going to be OK, but you can see by the look on their faces that they are very worried. Suddenly you are picked up and whisked off to a hospital – a place filled with odd smells and strange noises. Strangers in white uniforms poke and prod you, draw blood and hook you up to strange looking machines with unfamiliar names… what is going on?!

Most of the fear born in epilepsy is the fear of the unknown. Try these tips to help your child understand what he is experiencing:

Parents and caregivers can help their child the most by remaining calm. During times of stress and uncertainty, children look to the significant adults in their lives for cues on how to react. If you are calm, they will most likely calm down.
• Educate yourself: You need to understand what is happening in order to explain it to your child. Talk to your doctor and research online. A good place to start is this website’s Frequently Asked Questions about Epilepsy.
Offer age appropriate explanations: Explaining epilepsy to your child will help strip away much of the fear factor. Don’t use technical jargon, just keep it simple. Often what a child really wants to know is, ‘Am I OK?’ and ‘Are the tests going to hurt?’ Reassure them that often we don’t know why seizures happen, and usually when we take medicine they don’t happen often. But even if one does happen again, it is nothing to fear and a short time later they will feel alright again.
Let your child ask questions. When children feel they can freely discuss the events that frighten them, they are much better equipped to effectively cope with fears. Don’t force them to talk about an event, but when they bring it up, patiently answer their questions. Often they ask the same questions over and over, looking for reassurance, which is normal and nothing to worry about. Allow them the time they need to talk about what happened to them, until they are satisfied.

For more information and ideas on how to help your child learn to cope with a challenging medical condition such as epilepsy, please go to our homepage and look for the Building Trust: Troubled Hearts section of this website. There you will find tips on how to communicate with a troubled child, how to reinforce positive behavior and resources for using games as a healing tool.

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