Coping with New Behaviors in Your Child and Family

Introduction

Your child is coming home. Whether the hospital stay has spanned days, weeks, or months, discharge is a sign of progress that your child is out of danger and getting better. You may have mixed feelings:

These are common reactions by families of any child who has been in the hospital. For families of children with brain injuries, however, there is a special uncertainty. The brain does not heal like a broken bone. Life may never be quite the same again. Some changes are temporary; others last longer. Some changes are very noticeable; others are very subtle.

Coming home from the hospital is the end of one stage of care and the beginning of the next stage of recovery. It is a big step in the process of learning how to parent a child with a traumatic brain injury. Many parents find it hard to understand how a brain injury affects behavior.

This chapter will help you:

  1. understand common changes in behaviors after a brain injury.
  2. cope with and adjust to changes in behaviors.
  3. educate relatives, friends, school staff, and others about the brain and changes in behavior following a brain injury.
  4. take care of yourself and your family.

Many of the things that we do in our daily lives that seem so simple become a challenge for the child who has had a brain injury. You and your child may be surprised and frustrated by these changes. It takes time to learn about these changes and how to help your child. For example, one mother took her 15 year-old son into the city to visit his favorite museum following his injury. Since the age of 12, he had functioned as her navigator on these outings, and she had taken his word for it that he could still find the way. But, confused and lost in downtown traffic, he could not find the route to the museum and did not recognize familiar landmarks. She learned to look at maps, write down directions, and list landmarks for him before starting out.

Another parent told of her 10 year-old daughter's experience at the movies with her cousin. Halfway through the movie, she excused herself to go to the ladies' room. She found it easily enough, but when she got back to the lobby of the multiplex, she couldn't remember which of six movies she had been watching. A ticket stub in her pocket helped the usher direct her, but she then spent several frightened moments trying to locate her cousin in the darkened theater. She learned that if she left her seat in a theater, it was important to count the rows from her seat to the exit, check the movie title, and use her ticket stub as a reminder if she got confused.