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What Do Kids Know About Migraine?
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We all live in a “Google it” world, but I’m always amazed by the types of answers I get from young children. They range from completely hilarious to utterly profound. I’ll never forget when I explained to my 7-year-old nephew what an introvert was and he proudly exclaimed, “Well, I’m an un-introvert!” That you are, sweet boy. That you are!

After more than 30 years of living with migraines, it dawned on me that I had never really talked to any kids about them. That all changed last month when I polled a host of nieces and nephews, ages 5 thru 11 to hear what they understood about migraines. 

Below are five things I learned from these sage youths:

“What is it?” None of the kids I interviewed knew what migraines were per se, but all of them knew what a headache was. They recounted moments with headaches during a bad cold or COVID. They all agreed that they just don’t feel great. 

“I don’t know what to do.” There was a feeling of helplessness from the little people I talked to. In addition to wrapping their minds around what it means to have a migraine, they all seemed a little anxious that they wouldn’t know what to do if someone they loved around them had one. I reassured them that adults don’t often know what to do either and that sometimes just a hug will do. James, 9, said he would “say a prayer.” 

“Drink water and lay down.” The treatments for migraines (or really bad headaches) according to my panel of kids were quite simple. They recalled what had worked for them in the past and were too young to know about the host of treatments available. “I just lay on the couch and eat until it goes away,” said Crystal, 5. “I took medicine and just laid down,” said Savanah. Life is so simple at that age. Mordecai, 9, said he “Gets a pillow or an ice pack and waits until it wears off.” Actually, to be so young, they all listed some pretty tried-and-true remedies for headaches. 

“You have those?” Most of the kiddos were surprised that their Auntie Chele (as they affectionately call me) had migraines. They looked at me with a mix of wonder and pity -- perhaps not knowing whether to see it as a superpower or frailty that might impact future play dates with them. I was pleased to know that despite my migraines being all-consuming at times, they weren’t to the point of impacting my relationship with my little heartbeats running around. I’d like them to stay as innocent as possible about the challenges that our bodies can face. I want them to believe in the tooth fairy and superheroes and save their full knowledge of migraines and other conditions until later in life. 

“I want you to feel better.” There is just a beautiful empathy that emanates from children. They naturally want to be helpful, and they are concerned when they hear someone they care about isn’t feeling well. They were aware of family members or even fellow classmates who had bad headaches. “My mommy has one in the car a lot,” said Crystal. I wondered if it was traffic or just carting four kids to and from places. Kids notice more than we know.

The bottom line for me: Kids may not know the medical terms for everything or even how the body works in full, but they know how they feel. They feel pain. They feel sad when someone around them is in pain and they want to help. 

Many thanks to James, 9, Crystal, 5, Savanah, 11, and Mordecai, 9, for their insight into migraines. May they never have to experience them. But if they do, may they be supported and prepared. 

Tap into a community of fellow migraineurs on Facebook. Learn, share, and connect in our Migraine Support Community.



Photo Credit: Compassionate Eye Foundation/Rennie Solis / DigitalVision via Getty Images

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Michele Jordan

Michele Jordan

Diagnosed since 1992

Michele Jordan, a Los Angeles-based freelance writer, was diagnosed with migraine in 1992. Her writing background includes magazine and online journalism, grant writing, and now screenwriting. She is passionate about both physical and mental health and is the author of the book, Thanking Your Way to Joy: Daily Gratitude Journal. When not writing, Michele enjoys traveling with her husband, trying new, healthy recipes, and cuddling beagles. Her latest passion includes exploring and discussing issues around equity in housing, health care, and the justice system.

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