The Caregiver's Journey

Tips for Helping Children Cope

  • Provide information to your children about what to expect before they are reunited with their parent with TBI. For example, explain in advance what they may see in the hospital. Describe how their parent will look, behave, and react before he or she comes home.
  • Be flexible. Take your cue from your child about when he or she wants to resume his or her normal routine. Encourage children to stay involved with friends and school activities.
  • If your children choose to attend their activities, ask friends or relatives to take them. Ask friends to take over caregiving when you need to go to watch your son or daughter play basketball or appear in the school play.
  • Encourage your children to talk about their fears, hopes, and worries. Allow safe and appropriate ways for your children to express their emotions.
  • Meet with your children’s teachers to explain what has happened and the effects on the family.
  • Encourage other family members, friends, or other important adults in your child’s life to share time with your child and to act as a sounding board, if needed.
  • Your children may say upsetting things to you. Just listening can be the best support for them.
  • Re-establish routine for your children. Consistent dinner and bed times may help.
  • Encourage your children to talk about what familiar characteristics and behaviors of their parent they are starting to see.
  • Be easy on yourself and your children. A certain amount of stress is normal.
  • Be careful not to set a timeframe with your children for when recovery will occur. Children want it all to happen quickly, and it is hard to predict recovery after TBI.
  • Stay alert for changes in their behavior. Get counseling for your child to help him or her cope with grief, especially if the child appears depressed or is adopting risky behaviors.
  • Recognize that some children may pull away for a while. Others may regress to younger behavior, becoming very dependent, demanding constant attention, or exploding in temper tantrums. These behaviors should return to normal over time as the child adjusts.
  • Teenagers may be embarrassed about their parent with TBI. Rehearse with them how to respond to comments or questions about how their parent looks, behaves, and speaks.
  • Sesame Street Workshop has produced videos to help children in military families understand issues related to military service and to help parents communicate effectively with their children about these issues. One video addresses “Changes” that occur when a parent has been injured.

At the same time that you are providing factual information about TBI, don’t forget to include reassurance that you are still a family and love one another.