Feb 2021 1st Edition

Parenting a child with epilepsy

Written by Allison Cooper

While it may be a shock for a family to learn that a child has epilepsy, you can build an understanding, loving and accepting environment in which your child can grow and believe in their ability to succeed. 

According to Epilepsy South Africa, parents could be concerned about their child’s future and find epilepsy difficult to accept or talk about. You may feel angry, depressed, inadequate and guilty, but you can overcome these feelings and your anxiety by educating yourself about the condition.

Epilepsy is the tendency to have recurrent seizures, which occur when there is an abnormal electrical discharge in the brain.

Why my child?

Understanding epilepsy and why seizures occur doesn’t explain why this happened to your child.

In approximately 66% of cases, the underlying cause of epilepsy is unknown. This is referred to as idiopathic epilepsy. In the remaining cases the underlying causes can be identified, which is known as symptomatic epilepsy. 

There can be a variety of underlying causes such as a head injury, that can occur at any age; a birth injury, such as a lack of oxygen during birth; fever convulsions, encephalitis, meningitis or childhood measles; and metabolic or biochemical disturbances or imbalances.

A doctor will prescribe medication based on the age, physical condition and type of seizures your child has. Remember, anti-convulsant medication does not cure epilepsy but, in most cases, will reduce the frequency and severity of seizures.

Some tips on parenting a child with epilepsy:

  • Make your child aware of the condition. Children as young as three can understand that the brain controls the body. Older children should be given a more comprehensive explanation.
  • Inform close relatives and your child’s friends, teachers and other responsible school officials. 
  • Ensure your child receives a comprehensive medical assessment by a qualified professional, ideally a neurologist.
  • Emphasise your child’s abilities and any activity that will improve their self-acceptance, self-worth and self-confidence. 
  • Ensure adult supervision for some activities, such as swimming.
  • Ensure medication is administered and taken regularly as prescribed.
  • Provide a set routine with plenty of rest, three balanced meals per day and regular exercise.
  • When explaining seizures use words that your child will understand.
  • Never allow your child to use seizures as an excuse for getting out of chores or accepting responsibility.

For more information and assistance, contact Epilepsy South Africa at 0860 374 537 or visit www.epilepsy.org.za

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