A guest post by Virginia Cunningham
Every parent needs to do their part to make sure their children have high self-esteem, and this is particularly important for children who have issues that can easily affect their self-esteem, like epilepsy. Children diagnosed with epilepsy later in life may need extra encouragement, since they could feel that something is wrong with them with no warning at all.
While building self-esteem in a child with epilepsy isn’t always dramatically different than instilling a sense of self-worth in any child, there are some issues you should be aware of as a parent.
Increased Risk of Depression
According to the Edmonton Epilepsy Association, children that have epilepsy can be more likely to experience depression than other children. In many cases, this is because of medication prescribed to help control seizures.
Over time, depression can lead to overall lower self-esteem and a feeling of hopelessness. Speak with your child’s doctor about their medication and determine if there are any possible alternatives, especially if your child has a history of depression or low self-esteem.
Talk With Your Child
Keeping an open dialogue, especially with children battling epilepsy, is particularly important. Children that are diagnosed with epilepsy may feel that they’re different from other children, which can manifest as children feeling like they are not as “good” as their peers.
Of course this isn’t true, but if your child isn’t able to talk about their feelings, they may go unchecked and continue to grow and spiral out of control. Having regular discussions with your child about how they’re feeling is crucial and it sets up a lifelong pattern of communication.
It is also recommended to discuss with your child about their emotional state after seizures, as this can one of the most common times for children with epilepsy to feel depressed, vulnerable and anxious.
All children require some supervision, but children with epilepsy may have lower self-esteem if they feel like their parents are always monitoring them, even at home. It is vital to encourage your child to do everything they can on their own within their school and community, especially in their pre-teen and teen years, when they’re starting to really develop their own identity.
Quality Time Matters
Children that spend quality time with their parents are more likely to have higher self-esteem than those who do not. While many parents think they’re spending quality time with their children, activities like watching TV may not be as effective when there is no open dialogue or affection being shown during the activity.
Simple physical contact, like giving your child hugs, is also essential for building self-esteem that they can carry with them throughout their adult life.
Openly Support Your Child
The general public is becoming more and more aware of the condition of epilepsy, but there’s a chance that your child could face some discrimination at school or in the community because people simply don’t understand it. As a parent, it’s your job to step up and support your children whenever possible to keep them from feeling like they don’t belong.
Standing up for your child when necessary, especially with adults, will also help educate and teach your child how to be a supportive, responsible adult.
For many children, epilepsy is a serious condition that does affect their overall lifestyle. While some kids may not get to participate in all of the same activities as children without epilepsy, it is crucial that they don’t feel different in a negative way.
Over time, feeling different and like they just don’t belong can lead to low self-esteem and depression. Talking with your child regularly, encouraging their independence, spending quality time with them and supporting your child in their community can help build their self-esteem.
Virginia Cunningham is a freelance writer in the Los Angeles area whose writing covers a wide range of health topics and special needs education and inclusion. She also works with Northwest Pharmacy. As a mother of a special needs child, she highly encourages parents of special needs children to support their kids in every way possible.
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