Parenting and supporting children


A brain injury can happen to anyone at any time, and this includes significant numbers of people who have children. People with brain injuries often report that not only has their ability to carry out parenting roles been affected by their injury, but also their relationship with their children has changed.

Some common problems reported by parents with brain injuries are:

  • Irritability and poor tolerance – many brain injured parents report that they do not have the patience they used to have, and find it difficult not to be irritated by small frustrations such as children not sitting still and being noisy.
  • Guilt – brain injured parents may feel guilty because they cannot do things for their children like they used to. They might also feel guilty because they do not take as much interest in the children because of their own emotional or physical problems.
  • Lack of confidence and self-esteem – brain injured parents may lose confidence in their abilities generally, affecting their confidence in themselves as parents. They may leave decision making to the other parent, or try not to become involved in situations of conflict with their children.
  • Multiple demands of parenting – after a brain injury it can be difficult to ‘juggle’ different commitments. Frequently, people say that after a brain injury it is difficult to do more than one thing at once, for example helping a child with homework while at the same time preparing a meal.
  • Practical problems – for instance, not being able to drive, being unable to take part in family activities, not being able to go on certain kinds of holiday or play complicated board games.

More information on how parenting is commonly affected by brain injury, and tips for coping with this is available in the Headway booklet Parenting after brain injury.

Supporting children

Many parents report that not only are they different after their injury, but find that their children relate to them differently too. The way a child responds to their parent sustaining a brain injury will depend on a number of things – their attachment to the parent, age and level of maturity are key factors in their response.

Some children may feel apprehensive about seeing a parent whose injury is very serious or if the parent has been away from home (in hospital or rehabilitation) for a long time. They may find it difficult to readjust to life again, and may be distant when the parent first returns home, especially if the parent is experiencing cognitive, emotional or behavioural effects from their injury.

Sometimes children are required to take on caring responsibilities to help their disabled parent around the house. This might include physically helping to care for the parent, or taking on additional jobs such as grocery shopping or looking after younger siblings. Taking on these additional responsibilities may lead to the child having less time to socialise and enjoy the activities they did prior to the parent’s injuries.

More information on how children can be affected by their parent sustaining a brain injury, and tips for supporting the child are available in the Headway booklet Supporting children when a parent has had a brain injury.