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Parenting your child through concussion recovery

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Recurring symptoms -- and recovery

Your child sustained a mild concussion and -- phew! -- the doctor said she’s going to be okay. A few days of recovery and all will be back to normal, right? Not so fast. Recovery from a head injury isn’t so simple, and parenting your child through this confusing time can be a challenge. Even if the prognosis is excellent, you still need to keep your antennae up for complications in your child’s recovery: the vision changes, headaches and hearing changes may go away soon enough, but probably not soon enough for your comfort.

mom taking care of son

Parenting a child during a head injury recovery can be a particular challenge. Moodiness, sleep changes, headaches and anxiety may affect all of you, head injured or not. Separating what is recovery-related and what is part of your family norm may be difficult -- and your child may be resistant to adhering to recovery guidelines or even admitting how they are really feeling.

Doctors orders

As with any injury, adherence to the guidelines set by medical personnel for recovery is critical. What the doctor says, do.

Recovery from head injury usually includes directives such as rest, limiting screen (television/computer) time, limiting sound and other visual input and not participating in contact sports activities. Putting that into practice with often highly energetic kids can be a challenge. Your child may complain of boredom and that he or she "feels fine," but that's no reason to give in and, say, let them go to the opening of that new action movie just a few days after the injury. You are the parent, not a friend, and it's up to you to enforce the recovery directives -- as difficult as it may be at times.

Variable recovery time

There is no single answer for the amount to time it will take your child to recover from a head injury. While a "simple" concussion could have a recovery time of 10 days to three weeks, it will depend on the child, the seriousness of the injury and adherence to recovery guidelines.

During recovery -- and even after the "official" recovery time as passed -- you need to be extra vigilant about observing your child for signs of back-sliding in the recovery process and possible complications. Visual changes, balance and moods may all indicate a change in the recovery process. Your child, bored with this do little recovery time, may not be honest with you about what she is feeling so you'll have to look for multiple cues. When in doubt, follow up with your medical professional to be sure that your child is within guidelines and expectations.

Rollercoaster of frustration

Recovery from a head injury can result in a rollercoaster of emotion and frustration for the whole family. There's the anxiety that the injury itself produced, and likely some thankfulness that your child will be okay after this recovery period. If the recovery has a setback or two, there can be frustration and fear all around. Is he really going to be okay? Why isn't it a straight path? Am I parenting this situation correctly?

Your child may be feeling some fear about how they are feeling and be nervous to tell you if dizziness and headaches return. If that spacey feeling in their head continues longer than any of you hoped, it can be hard to focus on the fact that the brain is still recovering. Patience in these situations is difficult, especially for a kid!

Hopefully your child's head injury is very mild and it really is all over within a couple of weeks -- and one day you can all look back on this time with a chuckle at the push and pull of the parent-child relationship -- and some major relief for your child's health.

Learn how to prevent head injuries in kids

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