Parenting Young Children After Stroke



Photo courtesy of Paul A. Olsen

Amy Edmunds, Founder & CEO, YoungStroke Inc.

Parenting gets complicated when the parent also has to manage the dynamics of stroke recovery. Juggling the calendar of family activities with personal medical appointments is just the beginning challenge in this lifestyle. Peer support may be a pathway to personal success.

Motherhood Recovery

For Jamie Hancock, the mother of 3-year-old Blythe and 20-month-old Andrew, there was no greater incentive for stroke recovery than to return to the daily routine of caring for their needs. “I was unable to care for the children alone when I got out of the hospital,” said the young mother. “My children still had to go to full-time daycare while my husband, Ken, was at work. I couldn’t cook, walk, type or pay bills, grocery shop or do the laundry.”

Six years ago, Jamie of Sacramento, California, experienced two transient ischemic attacks the day prior to experiencing a major stroke. “I vaguely remember trying to lift my arm and could not. I had slurred speech and was unable to walk as I lost complete function on my right side from the neck down,” she said. But Jamie clearly recalls longing to pick up her children as before. Three months passed before she relearned to walk or care for herself.

Responding to their children during the middle of the night without her help was taxing for Ken. “We were fortunate to have the support of our families during the initial weeks,” Ken said. “But soon it was my responsibility to shuttle our kids to daycare, work full time and prepare simple meals.”

Today, Blythe is 9 and Andrew is 7. “It took four years to get back to being myself,” said Jamie, now 37. She is still concerned about the impact of her post-stroke deficits on her children’s development. Since her stroke, Jamie daily manages diminished analytical ability, loss of time perception and short-term focus. Sometimes her speech is slow or repetitive.

“I don’t want the kids to focus on mom being sick,” Ken said. However, he noticed Blythe continually wanted to help. And, she was exceptionally well-behaved. “Alex was too young to understand, he merely needed his mother’s attention.”

“Since the stroke, I can’t seem to filter anything out, so then I can’t focus on the task at hand,” Jamie said. “Then comes the frustration, anger and frequently tears. I am fully aware that any 37-year-old mother with a 7-year-old boy and 9-year-old girl will frequently be tired, exhausted because of the dynamics with school, after-school activities, normal sibling fighting and house chores. However, what is normal for the mom next to me in the same situation without a stroke history?”

One clue that she’s taken on too much is that she breaks down. When that happens, she has learned to pull back. “I usually apologize to my children and husband for my actions or words of anger directed at them,” she said. “In my heart, I know it results from my overstimulation and stroke fatigue.”

With a counselor, Jamie and Ken found help by realigning the family’s daily organization. “Most importantly, the counselor helped me to refocus on what I am good at now,” Jamie said.

The Hancock family (l to r): Andrew, Blythe, Jamie and Ken

One Friend

Jamie’s daughter, Blythe, attends a school where there is a teacher whose husband had a stroke. As an engaged parent volunteer, Jamie met the teacher and became aware of their families’ stroke experiences.

Initially, Jamie and the father joined a stroke support group, but quit after several sessions because the geriatric focus of topics discussed did not match their needs. Although the group meetings gave them perspective about how to live with stroke in later life, they found much of the feedback depressing. However, the two survivors continued to meet on their own, offering each other strength and support as stroke survivor parents of young children.

As we younger survivors seek support to recapture our family roles, sometime our needs are well served by the thoughtful compassion afforded by a single friend.

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AHA-ASA Resources

The Support Network

When faced with challenges recovering from heart disease or stroke, it’s important to have emotional support. That is why we created a network to connect patients and loved ones with others during their journey.

Stroke Family Warmline

The Warmline connects stroke survivors and their families with an ASA team member who can provide support, helpful information or just a listening ear.

Let's Talk About Stroke Patient Information Sheets

Let's Talk About Stroke is a series of downloadable patient information sheets, created by the American Stroke Association, that presents information in a question-and-answer format that's brief, easy to follow and easy to read.

Request Free Stroke Information Packets

Fill out this online form to request free information about a variety of post-stroke topics.

Caregiver Guide to Stroke

The Caregiver Guide to Stroke is meant to help caregivers better navigate the recovery process and the financial and social implications of a stroke.

Tips for Daily Living Library

This volunteer-powered library gathers tips and ideas from stroke survivors, caregivers and healthcare professionals all over the country who’ve created or discovered adaptive and often innovative ways to get things done!

Stroke Support Group Finder

To find a group near you, simply enter your ZIP code and a mile radius. If your initial search does not pull up any groups, try
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Stroke & Parts of the Brain

When Stroke Affects the Temporal Lobe

The temporal lobe has several functions, mainly involved with memory, perception and language.

When Stroke Affects the Brain Stem

The brain stem serves as a bridge in the nervous system. It sits at the top of the spinal column in the center of the brain. When a stroke happens there, it can cause a few different deficits and, in the most severe cases, can lead to locked-in syndrome.

When Stroke Affects the Thalamus

The thalamus can be thought of as a "relay station," receiving signals from the brain’s outer regions (cerebral cortex), interpreting them, then sending them to other areas of the brain to complete their job.
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Departments

Stroke Notes

Stroke-related news you can use about new scientific findings, public policy, programs and resources.

Readers Room

Articles, poems and art submitted by stroke survivors and their loved ones.

Life Is Why

Everyone has a reason to live a longer, healthier life. These stroke survivors, caregivers and others share their 'whys'. We'd love for you to share yours, too!

Everyday Survival

Practical tips and advice for day-to day living after stroke.

Life At The Curb

A unique perspective on survival by comedian and stroke survivor John Kawie.

Simple Cooking

Cooking at home can be a daunting task, but a rewarding one for your diet and lifestyle (and your wallet). Making small changes in your diet is important to your heart health. Here are simple, healthy and affordable recipes and cooking tips.

Support Showcase

Our new department highlighting the good work being done by stroke support groups from around the nation. If you are part of a successful support group we should consider featuring, let us know!