"N" is my 5 1/2 year old son.... I asked him these questions (over several different days) to get his perspective on things and wrote down exactly what he said.
What is a migraine?
Your head hurts. I think they are really bad.
How do you feel when mommy has one?
I feel bad for you
How do you help me when I have a migraine?
By rubbing your head gently and I play realllllllly quite and snuggle with you
What do you think when mommy has a migraine?
That you feel yucky
What do you wish you could do about my migraines?
Help you feel all better
How do you feel when Mommy can't play?
What is your favorite thing to do when Mommy has a migraine?
Bring you pictures and play food and help you feel better
He also added "I'm glad I don't have migraines. I would just have to rest alllllllll day!"
There are several important things we do when it comes to managing my chronic illness with the boys...
1) We are honest- When N has questions about my heath, we answer them in an age appropriate manner and are honest about what is going on. He knows what my migraines are and how they make me feel. He knows that he needs to play quietly and that I need to rest. And as disappointed as he is when it happens, he also knows that sometimes we have to change our plans because of my chronic illness.
2) We keep them involved- If I have a doctor appointment 95% of the time I have the boys with me (and sometimes Jeremy). We don't have family close or a consistent babysitter, but that's okay. I think it is good for the boys to see what I am dealing with sometimes. N gets to ask questions and "help" with things like blood pressure and weight. He gets to bring a toy or game and choose if he wants to pay attention to what is going on or not. He sees me get the 32 Botox injections every 3 months. I show him that I am not afraid of the doctor, tests, or needles. I pray that these examples help them to feel brave in difficult situations.
3) We see the good- Life can hand you a lot of lemons, but we are the first to make lemonade...especially in front of the boys. There are many times I have been upset, afraid or frustrated, but I don't let them see it very often. We try to put a positive spin on anything that's going on. We want to show that there is always a positive side to things, even if you have to do a little digging to find it. Also, looking for the good first helps them not be afraid of many situations we encounter.
- Mommy doesn't feel good today, but we get to snuggle, watch cartoons and have lot of snacks on the couch! Won't that be fun?
- We have to go to my doctor today. Are you excited to see the nice ladies and stand on the scale?
- Daddy has to take mommy to the hospital, but guess what!? Your friends will be here for a playdate and get to hang out with you until we get back! How great is that?
4) We lead with compassion- Thinking about others is not an easy task for young children, but it is essential especially in this house. We ask N often to think of how is actions are making others feel. "Mommy has a migraine and asked you to stop banging the toys together. You are not listening and still making that loud noise, how do you think that is making me feel?" I never say stop this/that "because I said so." He is too smart for that and he knows that when we ask things of him it's for a reason.
5) We praise and show they are valued- N has LOTS of ideas especially when I comes to how to make me feel better. He rubs my head gently, helps Jeremy bring me things and often makes me artwork to have on my nightstand. He is so sweet, caring and helpful... and we make sure he understands we know that and appreciate it!
Even though my chronic illness is at the forefront of our life, we don't let it become overwhelming for the boys. To them, it's just part of our everyday life. Our time as a family is the most important thing, not matter if we are doing a big outing or just playing at home.