Father’s Day is just around the corner, and it’s the perfect time to celebrate the strength and dedication that dads put into raising their children. Being a parent is no mean feat. It means having to show up for your kids every day, no matter what. This can feel a little daunting if you are a parent who has been diagnosed with epilepsy, however, experts believe that your condition should not stop you from being an involved parent! With a little bit of planning and communication, fathers with epilepsy can enjoy their kids’ childhoods just as much as any other parent.
Talk to your kids about your epilepsy
One of the most important things to do with your children is to communicate. If your kids know and understand your condition well, it can better prepare them to not panic if you do have a seizure. Use simple explanations that are kid-friendly and avoid any complex terminologies to explain how the electricity in the brain causes seizures. You don’t even have to tell them everything unless it’s very important! As long as they know what to expect, and (if they are old enough) how to respond in case of emergencies, that’s all that matters. You can consult your neurologist or a child psychologist for feedback on how to initiate and word this conversation. Here are some books for kids who have epilepsy that you may find useful.
Some key points to remember and discuss are:
- Symptoms of your condition
- Emergency contacts (only if they are old enough to be able to handle it on their own)
- Where your medications are
- Something to assure them in order to not panic when you do get a seizure
Be strict with your anti-epileptic medication
Pharmacological treatment has proven to help reduce the severity and frequency of seizures in almost 30-40% of patients, according to a study. Being a dad means you have to give your best to try and be in good health. Keep in touch with your neurologist and any other healthcare practitioner that you are seeing and put in place an effective care plan. Cutting down on alcohol, avoiding stress as much as you can, getting enough sleep and taking your medications on time are non-negotiables in this regard. Here are some helpful tips on what to do if you forget your epilepsy medication.
Family planning for to-be fathers with epilepsy
Research has shown that some epilepsy medications can reduce your fertility. If you and your partner are considering having children it’s important to start planning as early as possible. Consult a specialist and see what the best way forward is. Apart from that, your partner may require support during and after childbirth. Assess the severity of your condition, make a list of the things that you might be required to do and from these what things you may not be able to do. For example, carrying the baby, waking up at odd hours to change diapers, and being present during childbirth can cause stress and trigger seizures. Try to make a plan and hire help wherever necessary. Another thing to note is that carrying your baby for longer durations and especially up and down stairs can be a fall risk in case you do have a seizure. Taking all necessary precautions is important for efficient parenting.
Talk about your worries
It’s not easy to be a father with epilepsy. You might not be able to do things that you would like to. Talking about this with a therapist or in a support group can help you navigate through parenting better. Jotting down all your thoughts, worries and joys can further help you experience a fulfilling journey of parenting. Above all this, it is also important to communicate everything with your partner so they can make an informed decision about whether they want to be a parent or not.
Have a community for support
When your kid is younger, it might be difficult to explain your condition to them. In times like this, having a community is of utmost importance. Depending on the severity of your epilepsy, you should decide between hiring a full-time nurse or having your friends/neighbours/relatives check in on you from time to time. A child needs to feel safe instead of feeling responsible for your care for their appropriate emotional, intellectual and mental development. Hence, do make sure that the responsibility to offer care doesn’t fall entirely on them until they are ready to.
Epilepsy support organizations can be a great resource for individuals that are trying to find others who are experiencing similar lifestyle changes. Some great foundations to reach out to are:
- The Danny Did Foundation https://www.dannydid.org/
- The Chelsea Hutchison Foundation https://chelseahutchisonfoundation.org/
- The Southern Oregon Epilepsy Group http://soeg.org/
- Josh Provides www.joshprovides.org
- Epilepsy Association of Western and Central PA https://www.eawcp.org/
- Emma Bursick Memorial Fund https://www.emmabursick.org/
- Epilepsy Foundation (state and local chapters) https://www.epilepsy.com/local?field_affiliate_address_administrative_area=