"Instead of having headaches, I learned to feel my feelings. My feelings are okay."
-Jones, age eight
10-year-old Ethan described his headaches as either "pounding cannonballs" on the top of his head or "humongous pliers" gripping his temples. He created a character for them: a muscular hard-hat construction worker holding an enormous drill in each hand, opening up the top of his head and drilling directly into his brain. The intense pain made Ethan weep.
Headaches are the most common pain kids have and are often associated with high levels of pressure and anxiety. 90 percent of all school age children get headaches, while migraines affect 10 percent of kids -- too many in my book. Both may be caused by specific stressful events, but can be helped -- often without medication.
Pediatricians refer patients with chronic headaches to me all the time. My experience has shown me that a child's imagination can help unravel many of the tangled nerves and tight muscles that result in headaches and at the same time, learn tension-taming skills that last a lifetime.
Positive images have a tremendous impact on pain when children are in a relaxed state. Focusing on personal imageries can distract kids from discomfort and allow them to let go of the tension in their head. It also gives kids a way to explore and express the hidden feelings that cause stress. Although tools of the imagination can be used on immediate pain, they work best between bouts of distress, as part of an overall prevention program.
Here are seven headache-prevention tactics to try! They helped Ethan ...
With these few simple ideas, you are well on your way to creating your own family healing toolbox. Let me know what works for you. I'd love to hear about your child's successes.
This piece is adapted from "The Power of Your Child's Imagination: How to Transform Stress and Anxiety into Joy and Success."