Parents’ Coping

How parents cope with their child’s brain injury

Ever wonder if your emotional response to dealing with your child’s cerebral palsy is similar to how other parents respond? This study reviews the responses of parents whose children have been enrolled in an early intervention program for being at high risk for developing cerebral palsy.

All parents will agree that being a parent can bring with it all sorts of new and unexpected concerns and anxiety over your child’s wellbeing and development. However, told that your new baby may have sustained a brain around the time of birth, with the effects of the brain injury being largely unknown, parents are, understandably, substantially more prone to experiencing high levels of stress. The uncertainly about the future, combined with the greater demands in providing care for the child may lead to the development of mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. The impact of these mental health issues on parents, and how it may affect their interaction with their child is important to understand so that effective supports and services can be developed to help support and promote the well-being of parents.

Not surprisingly, the study confirmed that generally parents of children at risk for cerebral palsy have higher levels of stress, affecting fathers and mothers equally.

Some parents may have protective factors such as being in a stable relationship and having a supportive family that makes them more resilient to traumatic experiences and more able to cope with stress and trauma. It is important to note that while these increased levels of stress did have some effects on the parent-child relationship, they did not appear to have a negative effect on parental interactions with their child, which was measured by way of displaying displeasure, annoyance, frustration, or anger towards their child.

This study reveals what is already known and understood – caring for a child with increased needs and with uncertainly about the future takes a toll on parents. Parents are often sleep deprived, with the cost of therapy, equipment and time off work adding financial strain and worry about the future adding to the stress. While some supports and services are available, they remain inadequate. More needs to be done to support families caring for a child living with cerebral palsy to help the child thrive and the promote the well-being of parents.

Parent resources

Looking to connect with other families who understand what you're going through? 

Join the CP Support Canada Facebook Parent Group

CP Smile Project

The CP Smile Project is a community project that helps ensure children with cerebral palsy have access to recreational opportunities that allow them to engage in play and community involvement. We give monthly bursaries to families to help them provide the support needed for their child to engage in play and have fun.