21 Mar21

Epilepsy and empathy – how to help your child relate to people with epilepsy

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Did you know that 20% of Americans feel nervous around someone with epilepsy? That’s a fact we shared on our Instagram and Facebook pages this month. If a neurological condition like epilepsy isn’t understood, or is feared by many adults, it is unlikely that they will have the information needed to educate their children.

Children should be taught at a young age about various conditions so that they are sensitized to, and have empathy for, the different children they meet in school and at play. It’s no secret that children can be brutally honest (and sometimes harsh) as they don’t yet know the acceptable standards of behaviour and what not to say to someone with epilepsy. When a child is taught right from their formative years about various mental, physical and even psychological conditions are not to be made fun of, how to respect everyone, how to be empathetic to one another – society as a whole gets better.


Before you begin teaching your child about epilepsy, stress on the fact that people with chronic conditions are normal human beings. Draw similarities with your child and a child living with epilepsy by explaining that they both have feelings, ambitions, families, likes, dislikes and more, so that your child looks, treats and behaves with every individual in a way he/she would like to be treated.



Ways to help children relate to other kids with epilepsy:


1.Encouraging children living with epilepsy to share their experiences with classmates

As a parent of either a child with epilepsy or a parent of another child in the classroom, talk to a teacher to orchestrate a period when the child with epilepsy can share their experience – when they were diagnosed, how they feel before and after a seizure, what worries them and more. It may be scary for a child to share experiences about the diagnosis so if they aren’t comfortable doing so, another option is to have the teacher share information on the child’s behalf. Sharing difficult experiences with friends and classmates can prove to be therapeutic, but it can even go an extra mile in making classmates reach out and treat each other sensitively. All children need to be taught the golden rule: treat others the way you want to be treated.



2.Inviting a medical professional to schools

It’s never too early to educate youngsters about seizures and epilepsy. By inviting a medical professional to schools to talk about various aspects of epilepsy (such as how to detect a seizure, what can be done to help a person living with epilepsy, or how a fellow epileptic patient should be treated), kids can learn a lot about the condition. Hosting interactive sessions for children to share their thoughts, or even to talk about their experiences with epilepsy, can prove to be beneficial.



3.Parents’ role in educating kids to be empathetic

In a world where one encounters people with different experiences and health conditions, it is important for a parent to teach their kids to be empathetic to the suffering of others. And what better way to do so than by being role models themselves. Younger children tend to pick up a lot of cues from adults, therefore, be mindful when speaking to your child. Teaching children to speak in a polite manner, even gently correcting them if they falter, can make a real difference. Due to their innocence and not knowing the difference between right and wrong, a child can unintentionally hurt someone.


4.The role that teachers play

Teachers play an instrumental role in educating young minds. With so many different teaching methods, there are multiple ways in which a teacher can communicate effectively to kids. From screening documentaries on epilepsy to instructing kids to research about seizures as a class assignment, teachers have the power to encourage children to learn and talk about epilepsy in a respectful manner. Having sessions to speak to children on how not to treat kids living with the diagnosis differently, and why it is important to treat each other kindly, can make a difference.  


5.Recommending books and movies based on epilepsy to children

Children are visual learners, meaning they learn, remember, and associate things better through pictures and videos, rather than by merely listening. If you try speaking to your child about epilepsy but it doesn’t seem like they are absorbing what you’re saying, get them a book which has an underlying theme of epilepsy. By encouraging kids to read, or even by watching age-appropriate movies which portray characters living with epilepsy, you can help kids understand that the people around them experience different issues and they need to be approached in a sensitive manner. There are many eye-opening movies and books based on epilepsy: you can read up more on Shows, Movies and Books that have characters with epilepsy.


It is important to raise children that are mindful in the way they respond to others so they know how to show support for those living with epilepsy. For more helpful information, visit the SmartMonitor blog.


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