How Older Children Often React to a Parent with TBI

Older children, perhaps sort of 5 years to sort of pre-teens, they often show a lot of acting out, sort of oppositional behavior at home. They may do less well at school. They may even do better at school because they may focus all their attentions on their school work. And that can often make people think there's nothing wrong. So, if parents check out how kids are doing at school, and the teacher says, "Oh, no. They're doing great." "In fact, they're doing better than great." And that's often a red flag for us because we wouldn't be expecting that at this time. It's more normal for children's performance to tail off for a while, and for that to be supported. Children who seem quiet and withdrawn, we worry about. Older kids--teenagers--can become very consumed with issues around revenge. If this was an accident, they want to get back at the person who did this to their relative. And that can become quite difficult to deal with. The good news is that most children are very resilient in these situations, and with support and education, they can usually manage the crises of brain injury pretty well. And other children may need additional support from therapists or to see a family therapist with the rest of their family. But my feeling is that we shouldn't catastrophize it. That children are amazingly resilient, often more so than the adults, and many adults talk to us about taking strength from their children's optimism and ability to adapt and to cope. So, I don't think it's all bad.

When a parent is injured, older children can react from becoming withdrawn to putting too much pressure on themselves to perform perfectly at school. But kids are resilient and, with or without support, they will bounce back.

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Posted on BrainLine December 18, 2012.

Produced by Victoria Tilney McDonough, Justin Rhodes, and Erica Queen, BrainLine.