Talking to Young Children about Epilepsy and the Ketogenic Diet

When your child has seizures and is starting a ketogenic diet, it’s important to help him or her to understand and cope as much as possible. But it can be challenging to discuss complex medical information with young children in ways that they can grasp. For today’s post, I’ll provide some tips and resources to help you explain epilepsy and the ketogenic diet to your little one.

Keep It Simple

Try to keep things as simple as possible. You want to be open and honest but too many details can be confusing and create unnecessary anxiety for a young child. Remember that you know your child best so you are the best judge of how much they can understand. It may be helpful to let your child guide the conversation. Provide basic information and encourage your child to ask questions. Let the questions guide you with how much information to provide.

Use Kid-Friendly Terms

Sometimes children need kid-friendly analogies to understand a concept. For example, you might tell your child “You’re starting a magic diet (or a superhero diet, or a princess diet) because it helps some kid’s brains to feel better so that they don’t have seizures. You won’t be able to eat some of your favorite foods for a while but we’ll make special magic (or superhero, or princess) foods just for you that are just as tasty.” Using terms like these can help you to communicate to your child that he or she will be eating different foods and that they can do it because he or she is strong like Spiderman (if interested in superheroes) or determined like Cinderella (if interested in princesses). Again, you know your child best so tailor your explanation to his or her interests.

Use Children’s Stories

Some parents find storybooks are helpful in communicating complicated information to children and fortunately, there are several children’s books about special diets or epilepsy. Here are some of my favorites.

Reassure Them That They Are Not Alone

Even at a young age, children are very sensitive to feeling different from their peers. Reassure your child that they should not be embarrassed about having seizures or eating differently. Point out that many people have health issues and that they come in many forms. Some kids have breathing problems, others have tummy troubles, and others have seizures. Similarly, many kids have conditions that require them to follow a special diet. For example, some children have food allergies that limit the types of foods that they can eat and others are on a ketogenic diet for epilepsy, which also limits the types of foods that they can eat.

For more information on talking to your child about epilepsy, check out some of these useful sites:

How did you explain epilepsy and the ketogenic diet to your child? What advice would you give to other parents in your shoes?

-Mallory