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 they come home.
  • Be flexible. Take your cue from your child about when they want to resume their normal routine. Encourage children to stay involved with friends and school activities.
  • If your children choose to attend their typical activities (school, sports, etc.), ask friends or relatives to take them. Ask friends to take over caregiving when you need to leave to watch your son or daughter play sports 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 child (or 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 bedtimes 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. Discuss any changes you see with your child’s pediatrician for help addressing concerns early. For example, counseling for your child can help them 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.
  • Defense and Veteran’s Brain Injury Center (DVBIC) has family tools to support family and children during the recovery process.

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 and support one another.