What to do when your kid has a migraine (besides cry)

Our lives changed drastically on March 11, 2023. And we had no idea. When Holden woke up with a migraine that day, I thought awwww shit, but that’s about all I thought. He’s a super healthy kid and I figured it was just a migraine. Then the next day, it was still there. And for 8 days, it lingered. And it sucked.

Then on day 9, he woke up a NEW KID. You would have thought he downed an entire bottle of happy pills with fourteen Red Bulls. And it was awesome.

Until 45 days later when it all started again. 8 days of migraines. And then a big break. And then migraines again. On off, on off, on off…  

Until lately, when it’s become a daily problem. Yes, DAILY. 

So naturally, I did what any sane mom would do. I assumed it was a brain tumor. FYI, I’ve done a crapload of researching online, and even though this is what we all think at first, it’s rarely the case. Not never, but rarely. We got him an MRI just to be sure, and then another MRI just to double check. We got him a neurologist, and then another neurologist, and tried every abortive med to stop the migraines once they start (didn’t work), and preventive meds to stop them from happening (didn’t work either). And I’ve spent countless hours spelunking down the Internet rabbit hole to figure out what’s causing my kid’s migraines, but I’ll probably never figure it out. Most likely it’s puberty and hopefully he’ll grow out of them, but until that happens, my job is to help him be as comfortable as possible. 

Which is why I’m writing this post. Because now that our healthy, happy-go-lucky, awesome kid has been sidelined for more than 100 days of migraines in the past eleven months, we have learned a thing or two about how to handle pediatric migraines. And I’m writing this post to share them. Whether your kid has a migraine or a headache, or you know someone else who does, hopefully this list will help (FYI, some of these things come from Amazon, and I am an Amazon Associate and can earn from qualifying purchases).

Drumroll please, badadadadadadada, here are 9 exciting (not really) ways to help your kiddo when they have a migraine:

1. Medicine/Ibuprofen

Yes, I know this one is obvious, but the way I see it, a migraine is not the time to skimp or feel guilty about medicine. Your kiddo’s in a shitton (FYI, that word is SHIT TON, not some fancy word that rhymes with baton) of pain and let’s make this thing get better before it gets worse. 

2. Pill Glide

If your kiddo has trouble taking pills but you are SOOOOO F’ing sick of measuring out liquids (or the doctor prescribes a pill that must be swallowed), Pill Glide has been a miracle for us. Your kiddo sprays a couple squirts on their tongue, and it does two things. It makes their tongue slippery AND it tastes like delicious strawberries so they won’t taste the yucky pill.


3. Don’t MAKE your kiddo do stuff while they’re feeling awful

Here are some things it won’t kill your kiddo to miss: a day or two of school, a night of brushing their teeth, a bath, doing their homework, going to practice, coming down for dinner, and a whole lot of other stuff. Your goal is to make them feel better, not worse. And missing one thing isn’t going to hurt them in the long run, but making them do it when they’re feeling absolutely terrible might scar them for life. 

4. Breathing techniques

When Holden’s migraines are really bad, he usually starts freaking out and crying, and guess what that does? It makes the migraine worse. So his doctor taught us a breathing technique that helps him calm down. It’s simple, breathe in through your nose for 4 counts. Hold that breath for 7 counts. Breathe out through your mouth for 8 counts. Do that three times in a row while you’re either sitting or lying down in case you get dizzy.

5. Find a good distraction from the pain

You know what doesn’t help our kid? Sitting in a dark room doing nothing. It’s like saying, “Hey kid, go do nothing but lie there and think about your pain.” We’ve found the best thing to do is distract him from the headache. Lately, our go-to have been LEGO sets and episodes of Young Sheldon. We keep the volume low, and if the light is too much, listening to his echo dot in a dark room is our next best option. But basically, do anything that keeps him occupied so he’s not just focusing on feeling like crap.

And speaking of feeing like crap…

6. Crap that’s actually not crap 

So when your kiddo is in pain, you’ll do ANYTHING to make them feel better. Which includes spending money on pretty much any product that may or may not help. Some of them suck, but here are a bunch we’ve actually liked:

A migraine relief cap


Peppermint roller


Epsom salt bath

Migrelief (Honestly, this didn’t work for Holden, but I’m including it because people swear by it and it has vitamins that really do help kids with migraines)


7. The occasional coffee

Want to know something? Caffeine can help migraines! Want to know something else? Caffeine can cause migraines! You’re probably thinking the same thing I was. WTF? But what we’ve realized is that a little caffeine works for OUR kiddo. I only give him like one cup before lunchtime because guess what else can cause migraines? Lack of sleep! (P.S. So does getting too much sleep. I meannnnn)

8. Don’t buy into the bullshit

What you’ll quickly learn if you start researching is that there are all these big social media people who swear they have the magic answer. “Swallow a teaspoon of this every day. Stick this thing in your ear. Take allllll these vitamins I recommend. Oh, and by the way I sell them and there’s a link below!” Oh crap, that’s what I just did, isn’t it? But the difference is I’m trustworthy and they’re not. Anyways, if these social media people really had the “magic” answer, don’t you think the doctors would all be out of a job? Don’t buy into the bullshit.

9. A Crapload of Cuddles

This will help THEM while they’re in a lot of pain. And this will help YOU when you are too. Because even though you’re not the one with the migraine, nothing is more painful than watching your kiddo when they’re hurting. And when the migraine is finally gone, hopefully your hug will be way more memorable than the headache.

If you liked this, please don’t forget to like and share it. Especially with anyone you know who deals with migraines or headaches. Thank you!!!!

There are 14 comments for this article
  1. Emily Rockwell at 6:56 pm

    I’m so sorry Holden is going through this. I have a friend who’s daughter is going through this as well. Any advice on how I can support my friend and her daughter (even though we live thousands of miles apart)? I know she is trying EVERYTHING.

  2. Amy Stewart at 8:09 pm

    Hello! I have no experience with migraines but I’m sure school is causing him/you added stress. We stumbled upon a homeschool company during Covid- I did with my son for the two years schools were a disaster- 5th and 6th grade for him. It’s a cool program- lit based (I’m guessing he can’t read when head hurts- but audio books maybe)- anyway- my kid loved it. When we studied the Civil War- read a novel from the point of view of a kid from the south and one from the north. But- my point- it alleviated my stress about sending him to school with all of the covid craziness- AND he restarted school in 7th grade without a hiccup. We are in Indiana- no real homeschool rules. Regardless- so sorry you are all going through this!

  3. Michelle K. at 8:13 pm

    I suffered in high school with migraines and it was the absolute worst. I could suffer through the day and that was it. So I feel for anyone who suffers. For me, it was my eyes were going bad, I had horrible sinus problems and the florescent lights were way too bright. Now, I barely even get a headache. When I do, it is good old Tylenol and some extra caffeine. I pray my son doesn’t need to follow in my footsteps.

    • Susie S at 11:15 pm

      My son gets bad tension headaches, not migraines, but when he gets them, they come in HOT. The migraine cap worked so well we bought a second one so we could rotate if needed. He had an MRI also, and they found an arachnoid cyst on his cerebellum (3″ wide). We met with the Neurosurgeons at Cleveland Clinch and University Hospitals, and feel fortunate he does not need surgery. We reduced his salt intake and did add the vitamins they recommended, which have helped tremendously (COQ10, Magnesium and B-2). I really hope that through all of your testing what works best, you find the perfect recipe that works for him ❤️

  4. Michie at 8:44 pm

    I’ve had migraines most of my life and it pains me to think of Holden having to deal with them daily. I need to check out some of your links for myself as putting something cold on my head does help – so your link looks interesting. There are times that I have found that going outside or even just getting some fresh air can make me feel better. Maybe that would be something that could help him relax a little and at least it’s free so you haven’t lost anything if it doesn’t help. Your recommendations are all things I could identify with. I really hope Holden gets some relief soon – and you too Mom.

  5. Chris at 8:46 pm

    Hello, I’m sure you’ve already checked into this but just in case, did the migraines start around the time you moved into your new house? If so, could something in it be causing it? Chemicals in new carpeting or formaldehyde in wood products, etc?

  6. Natalie at 8:47 pm

    I feel so bad for Holden and you. I suffer from migraines myself and I know how bad it can be. Praying that they find something that can help him

    • Kelly Conner at 10:32 pm

      I’m so sorry you and your family are having to go through this. My 12 year old daughter has had a headache every day for the past 2 years. They vary in severity, but when it’s bad, it’s BAD. One thing that had helped alleviate a lot of streets for us, a 504 plan at school. She gets extra time to make up assignments, a quiet place to eat lunch (and can bring a friend) since loud noises make it worse, and a pass to opt out of strenuous activity in PE. We also have a great neurologist who sees a lot of kids if yiu ever need. Prayers that things get better. I know how devastating it can be to watch your kid suffer. ♥️

  7. Karen Christine at 9:48 pm

    I have suffered with migraines for years! Now that I’m in my forties, I seem to have a pretty good handle on them. I can feel them coming and if I take my migraine med in time, I’m ok. There is one thing that we have that is absolutely amazing for those times that I don’t catch it in time. It’s an eye massager and it has been a godsend:
    One more gadget to consider! Hope he grows out of them soon because I know they are the absolute worst!

  8. Brynn Poole at 10:10 pm

    I don’t know why, but a cold pack on the back of the neck works wonders for us! I’ve also heard putting your feet in ice water. No idea why that would help, but a friend swears by it. I’ve never tried that since the cold pack on your neck works for us. You can even make one with a clean old sock and rice. You can microwave it in short bursts to use as a hot pack too. Good luck Holden and family!

  9. Melissi Hammer-Moyer at 8:36 am

    Have the doctors or you looked into autoimmune issues? I dealt with regular and complex migraines throughout my teen years (1980’s). Doctors couldn’t figure it out then. Suspected something hormonal but couldn’t identify. Fast forward 2004 and finally diagnosed with Hughes syndrome/APS. This came about after several miscarriages then a stroke several months after a successful pregnancy (1999). Primarily shows in women but men can also have issues especially during teen years. As a mom it is scary to deal with your own diagnosis but scarier yet when my son was diagnosed also with it. In his case, he basically outgrew it (24 now). He is still monitored by our rheumatologist.

  10. Mandie Lee Burns at 7:23 pm

    I’m so sorry Holden is having to deal with this. As a fellow migraine sufferer I have full compassion and empathy to him and you as it is not just the person with the migraine that suffers. I have suffered since 12 years old. Regular trips to the er was my life. Injections to try and control them, diet trials, and so forth. Now as an adult in my late 40’s after suffering almost daily as well I am finally getting some reprieve. Only due to two medications. I take rizatriptan at the on set of a migraine, doesn’t take it away completely but relieves some symptoms. And then every night I take Topiramate which has been a blessing as I have gone from daily to maybe monthly or every couple months.
    I truly hope you can get some relief for Holden, not many people realize how debilitating migraines can be. It is a chronic illness that needs more attention.

  11. Riley Darling at 1:48 am

    My personal experiences:
    1. Triptans notoriously cause rebound headaches/migraines which sucks.
    2. Ubrelvy is a miracle drug.
    3. Aimovig is also a miracle drug.
    4. Artificial sweeteners are a trigger.
    5. Sometimes all I can do is take an abortive (Ubrelvy 100mg) make a freezing cold dark and quiet space to rock myself back and forth. Sometimes I’ll use an ice pack on my chest or neck.
    6. Migraines royally blow. But you can’t show any emotion because it hurts more!
    7. Lying down makes it worse.

  12. Kat at 5:57 am

    It sucks so hard when our babies are suffering and we can’t help them.

    I had a headache for 3 years that was only relieved if I had a headband across my forehead on certain trigger points. I finally bit the bullet and did all the testing and it was chronic tension headache, my neurologist was old and out dated suggested I remove the stress from my life… my autistic kids??
    Got right meds and it was amazing to not feel pain 24 hours a day.

    I hope they find what works best for Holden and he gets his quality of life back free of pain xx