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How Do I Talk to My Child about their Trigeminal Neuralgia?

It is hard to give specific advice in this area because it will vary so much, not only age group to age group, but child to child.  However, we want to do our best to give you some guidance based on what we have learned in our years on this path with our kids.

  1. They need to know you are there for them.  Always reinforce that you are in this together.

We know.  WE KNOW it is too much some days.  There are times you desperately want to pretend TN doesn’t exist, and the thought of another attack makes you want to run away from home.  But your child needs to know that you are in this fight together.  They need to know that no matter how bad it gets, you will be beside them. They are not too much of a burden.  They will never be too much of a burden.  You will always fight for them and with them.

Many of us TN Mamas have had times our child hid symptoms from us, or downplayed them.  Sometimes they just don’t want to talk about TN today.  Other times symptoms are so a part of every day life, they just forget to speak up.  Some of that is perfectly normal and ok to let them do.  But you do not want your child to start hiding symptoms because they are afraid of you not being able to cope with it.  Find yourself your own support and guidance, a safe place to fall apart sometimes, then be the place it is safe for them to hurt.

Walking the TN path on their own is too much for many adult patients.  It’s far too much to let your child start taking on.  You never want them to feel they have to shoulder this on their own.

  1. Validate their pain.

Acknowledge it is real, it is big, and you don’t doubt them.  It is tough for adults to comprehend that a child can be in that much pain.  For many there can be a tendency toward minimizing it, thinking the child is exaggerating, or being overly dramatic.

One of our neurosurgeons told us that the adult, women, TN patients he has had have told him they would rather go through natural childbirth multiple times than have another TN attack.  We would never minimize the pain of childbirth, right?  And yet women who have experienced both would take childbirth over the pain of TN.  Don’t minimize the pain.  Don’t let other adults around them do it either – even if that adult is a medical professional.

Reassure them that you believe them.  It is incredibly painful.  They are so amazingly strong for going through this pain and still being the awesome child they are.

3.  Be as honest as you can about what is going on with their condition.

This is their body that is feeling this pain, and their body that has to deal with the treatments.  Be as honest as possible about what is causing their pain, as well as treatment options.

Now, I say “as honest as you can be” because depending on the age of your child, you may need to edit for their understanding and emotional maturity.  However, my recommendation as a parent – not as a professional in any field, but as a parent – is to err on the side of thoroughly answering their questions and informing them.  Taking some of the unknown and mystery out of it will help take away some of the fear, too.

Doing this requires you to understand what is going on physically with their condition, and to be able to distill that information down for them, which I understand is no small thing.  But you know your child and should do your best to give them the information they need to understand.

Also in this category is being honest and not painting  falsely rosey picture.  No promises of TN being cured because they have a few good days.  Your child will be looking to you to help understanding all that is happening to them.  They need to trust you in those moments, so be conscious of always deserving that trust.

4. Reassure them (and yourself!) that there is HOPE.

It was a hard, hard day when my (Megs) daughter heard ‘Suicide Disease’ the first time.  It was a neurosurgeon who told her it was called that.  She was only 11 years old, actively having attacks at the time, and had to ask me what ‘suicide’ meant.  We also learned later that our girl had thought that she was dying.  She couldn’t imagine she had this much pain and wasn’t.  She thought we either didn’t know, or weren’t telling her.

It can be easy to get swept up in the bad days, focused on the pain and how hard the fight is sometimes.  We have to work to keep our kids out of that pit.  We need to practice remembering the hope.  Remember:

  • We have medications that are coming out with new generations with few side effects all the time.
  • We have surgical procedures that are getting better and better success rates as technology progresses and we learn more about TN.
  • The Facial Pain Research Foundation believes they are within a decade of a cure.
  • Some of the most awesome people I have ever met, I have met through this journey.

It is no little job before you, so please don’t take any of what is written here to say that this is easy, or that you have to be perfect in all of this.  We are sharing things we have learned along they way – we are not saying we were great at it every day.  Some days you will do better at this than others.  That’s ok.

Love, Hugs & Hope to you.

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