Helping Your Child Thrive With Epilepsy

You can help your child with their academic, social, and emotional challenges

If your child has been diagnosed with epilepsy, you and they will face some challenges. Each child (and their family) has a unique situation, and parents play an important role in helping them thrive. 

It’s likely that you and your child have already had to deal with anxiety and uncertainty leading up to the diagnosis of epilepsy. And some issues might still be uncertain—including the prognosis of other symptoms and whether your child’s seizures will be well controlled.

Giving your child their medication is one aspect of helping them thrive. Managing other issues around their school life, social life, mental health, and extracurricular activities will be valuable, too.

Parents can help their children navigate the challenges of epilepsy

Getty Images / Kentaroo Tryman

School and Learning 

Children who have epilepsy are often able to learn in school and at home without any cognitive problems. However, some children who have epilepsy also have associated learning problems.

Learning problems in epilepsy can be related to:

  • Developmental disorders and neurological syndromes can cause seizures. So your child might have epilepsy as part of a neurodevelopmental issue, like Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.
  • Sometimes the side effects of anti-epilepsy medication can interfere with concentration and thinking abilities. 

It’s important to seek out testing for your child so you can find out whether they have a learning disability, and, if so, which skills are impacted. Defining learning problems is the first step in being able to help your child function at their best. 

Once you have test results, you can work with your child’s educators to discuss whether they need special intervention or need to go to a school that is equipped to help children who have learning challenges.

If a child is in a setting that moves too fast or doesn’t serve their academic needs, they can get behind in school, become frustrated, lose confidence, and never reach their potential learning abilities.

Settings

Your child can gain more confidence and will learn more effectively if they are in a setting that is designed to accommodate their learning abilities.

Social Life 

Getting along with others and making friends is important at every age. Some children are naturally exceptional with social skills, but most are not.

Having epilepsy can hinder a child’s social development if it affects their confidence or influences others’ perceptions of them. And in some cases, children who have epilepsy as part of a neurodevelopmental issue, like autism, can also have inherent deficits in social abilities.

You can be a strong and calm support for your child as they navigate the social pressures of growing up. You can start by listening to them and helping.

As a parent, you can help your child’s social growth by encouraging them to play with peers who have compatible personalities and helping arrange opportunities for them to play together. Try to figure out the amount of play time that seems right for your child. If your child isn’t very social, don’t push it.

If you are concerned that they may have a problem interacting with others, you can talk to their teachers and doctor about it. Seek help and advice from a mental health professional, who may be able to guide you about expectations, help you understand the range of normal social behavior for your child’s age, and provide intervention as necessary. 

Support Groups

You and your child may benefit from connecting with a support group. You can ask your child’s doctor about local or online support groups. There are support groups for people who have epilepsy, family support groups, and groups for people who have specific health conditions. 

You and your child may learn about strategies for remembering to take medication, get ideas for how to tell coaches and teachers about your child’s condition, or feel good in knowing that there are other people out there who are thriving while living with epilepsy. 

While support groups can be helpful, it’s important that you monitor your child’s communication with anybody, whether in person or online. 

Mental Health 

Children who have epilepsy are at risk of having problems with mood, particularly depression.  As a parent, you can provide a sense of consistency and support for your child. However, children can go through periods of mood problems or can have severe mental health issues even when they have the most supportive of parents.

You should discuss your concerns and observations of your child’s mental health with their doctor. With this information, the doctor will recommend screening tests or treatment as needed.  

Mental Health Support

A multidisciplinary approach for mental health support and management is usually recommended for children who need intervention. This can include working with a therapist for individual counseling, family therapy, and/or medication.

Extracurricular Activities 

Most children, including children who have epilepsy, can gain confidence, friendships, and life skills by participating in extracurricular activities that they enjoy.

As a parent, you can help your child find activities that are right for them. This can include sports, theater, board games, art, music, and many more options.

Regardless of your child’s achievement in their activities, it’s important to support their efforts, even if they aren’t winning prizes for the top performance.

Epilepsy Medication and Treatment 

Epilepsy treatment involves a variety of approaches. Children may need medication, surgery, and/or dietary changes. Additionally, it is important to be aware of seizure triggers such as alcohol, lack of sleep, skipping meals, flashing lights, and infections. 

If your child can understand, it is helpful to talk to them about their seizure control. They can begin to take a more active role in managing their medication, avoiding triggers, and talking with their medical team. 

Independent Decision Making 

Your child can learn about their condition as they start to make more decisions in their life.

For example, if their doctor doesn’t recommend driving, an adolescent who has seizures might decide to take on a summer job they can walk to, instead of driving. As your child reaches young adulthood, they may eventually be able to live in a place where they don’t need to drive to get around. 

Your growing child may also make decisions about their job, friends, habits, and hobbies with consideration of maintaining their best health while living with epilepsy.

Summary

Parents can help their child with epilepsy achieve a good quality of life. They may face challenges in school, their social life, activities, mental health, treatment, and preparing for independent living.

A Word From Verywell

Epilepsy is a diverse condition, with a range of seizure types and severity and a number of associated conditions. Managing epilepsy with your child as they get older involves giving them support and guidance while providing them with opportunities for increasing levels of independence.

Children who are diagnosed with epilepsy can achieve a good quality of life. You can get advice and support for yourself by reaching out to medical professionals and support groups as you help your child thrive. 

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Puka K, Ferro MA, Camfield CS, Levin SD, Smith ML, Wiebe S, Zou G, Anderson KK, Speechley KN. Trajectories of quality of life 10 years following a diagnosis of epilepsy in childhood. Epilepsia. 2020 Jul;61(7):1453-1463. doi: 10.1111/epi.16579

  2. Schraegle WA, Titus JB. Executive function and depressed mood are independently disruptive to health-related quality of life in pediatric temporal lobe epilepsy. Epilepsy Behav. 2021 Feb;115:107681. doi:10.1016/j.yebeh.2020.107681

  3. Malhi P, Annam A, Singhi P. Psychopathology and quality of life in children with epilepsy: A cross-sectional study. Indian J Pediatr. 2021 Jul;88(7):712-714. doi:10.1007/s12098-021-03685-w

  4. Celik H, Acikel SB, Ozdemir MAF, Aksoy E, Oztoprak U, Ceylan N, Yuksel D. Evaluation of the clinical characteristics of children with autism spectrum disorder and epilepsy and the perception of their parents on quality of life. Epilepsy Res. 2021 May;172:106599. doi:10.1016/j.eplepsyres.2021.106599