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Parenting with Migraine: How to Get the Support You and Your Kids Need

Real Talk

June 04, 2024

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Photography by Mladen_Kostic/Stocksy United

Photography by Mladen_Kostic/Stocksy United

by Clara Siegmund


Medically Reviewed by:

Nicole Washington, DO, MPH


by Clara Siegmund


Medically Reviewed by:

Nicole Washington, DO, MPH


Migraine can impact your relationship with your kids. Strategies for juggling family life and migraine include having a support network, being prepared for episodes, and communicating openly.

Parenting is a big job. When you have migraine, that job can be herculean.

Migraine can make it more difficult to complete tasks and chores, participate in activities, and attend events. In short, migraine can make being present with your kids an extra challenge.

While migraine can add complications, it by no means makes parenting impossible.

Here are some of the ways that migraine can affect your relationship with your kids, plus a few tips for parenting with migraine.

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How can migraine impact your relationship with your kids and teens?

Parenting is hard without complicated health factors. When you have a chronic condition that can flare up at any moment, it can be even harder.

Migraine impacts your day-to-day life, so it’s no wonder that it can also impact your relationship with your children.

In a 2018 review of a large-scale online survey known as the CaMEO Study, results indicated that having a parent with migraine has a major impact on adolescents.

In the survey, teens reported that their parent’s headache days resulted in the following events at least one time per month:

  • Over one-third of teen respondents take over chores like laundry, shopping, or dishes for their parent.
  • Nearly half of teens make meals or snacks for themselves and/or other family members.
  • Around one-fourth to half miss family outings.
  • Nearly half say their parent gets upset with them over something minor.
  • Around one-third to half say their parent has a hard time understanding them.

A 2016 study looked at the CaMEO data from the point of view of the adult with migraine.

Researchers reported that at least once a month the following occurs:

  • Over half of adult respondents can’t participate in family activities at home.
  • Nearly half of adults can’t spend time with their children when they need support like homework help or talking through a problem.
  • Around one-sixth report that their kid missed a scheduled activity.
  • Nearly half can’t fully enjoy or be involved in their kid’s activities.

While this data may seem dismal, it doesn’t have to be. With proper support, parents with migraine can develop positive coping mechanisms that include the kids. These support systems can even bring you closer together.

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Tips for parenting with migraine

Migraine may require you to do things a bit differently, whether that means planning ahead, being a bit more creative in your activities, or prioritizing certain forms of care.

Here are some tips that can help make parenting with migraine a more positive experience.

1. Show yourself love and care

When you don’t address your own needs, it’s more difficult to address the needs of those around you. It’s as important to care for yourself as it is to care for your kids.

You can look after your mental and physical health every day by practicing self-care and adopting a migraine-supportive lifestyle.

Some strategies include:

Of course, this is all easier said than done — especially when you have kids, work, and a million other responsibilities to juggle.

Still, showing yourself the kindness, love, and care you show your kids can help you be present with them when you’re feeling well.

In other words, put your oxygen mask on before you’re in crisis. Then, try not to be too hard on yourself when you’re unwell.

2. Be prepared, then let go

Living with a chronic condition means that some things are out of your control. Even when you do everything you can to prevent migraine, attacks still strike.

Preparing in advance can help ensure that you have what you need should symptoms start, whether you’re out and about with your kid or at home.

To be prepared, consider trying the following tips:

  • bringing your migraine medication with you anytime you leave the house
  • snacking with your kids throughout the day to make sure you don’t get too hungry
  • choosing nutritious snacks like nuts, seeds, or protein shakes to keep your blood sugar levels stable
  • drinking enough water and fluids throughout the day to keep from getting dehydrated
  • keeping your migraine rescue kit well stocked and with you at all times

3. Have backup child care plans

Put rescue plans in place for those times when migraine strikes.

There may be a family member, friend, neighbor, or babysitter who can come pitch in at your home for a while or take your kids out for a few hours. Maybe a parent friend can host a playdate for your kid and theirs.

Whoever your trusted helpers are, establish in advance that you may sometimes need to call for last-minute support. The more options you have, the merrier.

A backup plan can help give you peace of mind and take one thing off your plate while you ride out the migraine attack. It’ll likely be more fun for your kid, too.

Whoever your trusted helpers are, establish in advance that you may sometimes need to call for last-minute support.

4. Stock up on low-prep, ready-to-go meals

Having low-prep or heat-and-eat options in the pantry can be a big help for when cooking isn’t an option.

Consider stocking up on anything that can simmer away on its own, go in an air fryer, or be microwaved.

This includes:

  • canned soups
  • canned beans
  • microwavable rice
  • frozen vegetables
  • frozen meals
  • mac and cheese
  • pasta

Batch cooking big meals when you’re feeling good can also provide minimal-prep leftover options for later. Plus, batch-cooked meals can be kept in the freezer for weeks and reheated when needed.

As your kids get older, having meals on hand that they can easily prepare themselves can give you a break when needed and help them build up confidence in the kitchen.

5. Find activities you can do together

Incorporating migraine-supportive activities that work for you and your kids can help you find ways to spend time together.

Some ideas for calm activities with kids and teens include:

  • listening to audiobooks or podcasts
  • playing with Play-Doh or modeling clay
  • painting, drawing, or other arts and crafts
  • puzzles
  • going for nature walks
  • having low-key home movie nights
  • doing calming exercises like restorative yoga and stretching

You may find that the most important thing for your kids is that you’re there with them when you can be. What you do together is likely less important to them.

6. Talk about migraine openly in ways your kids can understand

Kids and teens can recognize when parents don’t feel well, and that can be scary and upsetting.

Addressing what’s happening directly in words they understand can help them feel safe, validated, and reassured. It can also help you get a grasp on your child’s questions and anxieties about migraine, what they need from you, and how you can meet those needs.

For young kids, it may be useful to try to relate what you’re feeling to something they’ve experienced before. For example, you could compare your migraine to a brain freeze that lasts a really long time.

Of course, migraine is much more than that, but drawing comparisons to events in their own lives can help kids conceptualize what’s happening.

There’s nothing secret or shameful about migraine. Being open with your kids helps reinforce this for you and for them.

Drawing comparisons to events in their own lives can help kids conceptualize what’s happening during migraine.

7. Have daily check-ins with your kids

Consider making it a routine to check in with your kids every day about how they’re feeling physically and emotionally.

Try asking things like:

  • “What are your emotions today?”
  • “How is your body feeling today?”
  • “What are you looking forward to about today?”

Then switch. Encourage your kids to ask you the same and share honestly in ways that are both understandable and appropriate for them.

Depending on how you’re feeling, you might say:

  • “Today, my tummy is upset.”
  • “Today, light is hurting my eyes.”
  • “Today, I need to go slowly and quietly.”
  • “Today, I’m feeling happy and hopeful.”
  • “Today, I’m feeling strong.”

This can help your kids understand that migraine is different from one day to the next. By the same token, they can learn that both emotional and physical feelings change all the time — and that’s OK.

Through communication and sharing, you can help your kids grow emotionally and build the healthy habit of checking in with themselves, all while giving them a better understanding of what migraine looks like for you.

8. Create alternative opportunities for togetherness

Maybe your kid has a sports game, recital, play, or presentation that you were planning on attending, but now a migraine attack is forcing you to miss it.

This is understandably upsetting for you and for your kid. It’s perfectly normal to feel frustrated, sad, and angry. But just because you can’t be there physically doesn’t mean you can’t experience it.

Another adult could record the performance. Then you and your child could watch it together when you’re feeling better. Your child could give a detailed play-by-play when you’re able to hear it. Or they could recreate the event, showing you how they scored a goal or played their piece on the piano.

Whatever the strategy may be, you and your child can find ways to relive the moment together once you’re feeling up to it.

9. Lean on your support network

Raising a child takes a village. There’s no shame in turning to your village for support, including when you have migraine.

It’s OK, understandable, and even expected to ask for support when you need it — whatever help looks like for you.

To make your requests as effective as possible, try being specific. Do you need help with chores, afterschool pickup, grocery shopping, cooking, or kid-friendly activities?

Asking for exactly what you need helps others know how to provide support.


Migraine has wide-ranging effects on your life, even your relationship with your children. That doesn’t mean you can’t have beautiful, fulfilling relationships with your kids!

There are plenty of strategies to help you foster strong family dynamics day-to-day and long term.

These include taking care of your physical and emotional well-being, doing migraine-supportive activities together, talking about migraine openly, and leaning on your support network when you need it.

Medically reviewed on June 04, 2024

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About the author

Clara Siegmund

Clara Siegmund is a writer, editor, and translator (French to English) from Brooklyn, New York. She has a BA in English and French Studies from Wesleyan University and an MA in Translation from the Sorbonne. She frequently writes for women’s health publications. She is passionate about literature, reproductive justice, and using language to make information accessible.

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