(April 20th 2023) A new booklet, CHATS: Children Helped by Adults to Talk about Stroke has been developed by Dr. Áine Connolly, Principal Clinical Psychologist, and Ms. Wendy Moynan, Social Work Team Leader of Tallaght University Hospital (TUH). The authors have years of experience helping patients, and families with children in TUH to navigate the difficult adjustment after a stroke.
Previous international studies have highlighted that talking to children and young people about a loved one’s illness is important for their mental health. However, research is also clear that adults find sharing a diagnosis with children emotionally challenging. Staff in the stroke service in TUH recognised that there was a gap in terms of the provision of accessible, good-quality information to help adults to talk to children after such a traumatic event.
Feedback from families on the new booklet has been very positive. One stroke patient said “My son was 13 when I had my stroke and I wish we’d had this book to explain to him what had happened at the time. Reading this book you realise you are not alone at this scary time.”
The National Stroke Strategy 2022-2026 emphasises the importance of recognising the impact on children when adults close to them have had a stroke and the need for supportive, accessible sources of information. It also recognises the needs of adults for guidance and resources to help them communicate effectively on the subject of stroke.
Professor Rónán Collins, Clinical Lead for the National Stroke Programme says “Almost 25% of strokes in Ireland happen to those who are parents of children and young people. The new CHATS booklet is a valuable educational and practical guide for parents and other adults to begin communicating about what has happened with their children. I wish to congratulate the entire team involved in this thoughtful and valuable project.”
One of the authors of the new CHATS booklet Wendy Moynan, a Social Work Team Leader at TUH says, “This booklet is for parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles or anyone caring for, or working with, a child or young person where an adult close to them has experienced a stroke and is in hospital. We wanted to help adults recognise the importance of communicating honestly with a child or a young person after a stroke and also how to best offer support, during this difficult time.”
Joint author of the new CHATS booklet, Dr. Áine Connolly, Principal Clinical Psychologist hopes that this guide will, “Not only raise awareness of the importance of this topic but will also be a valuable tool for adults as they deal with the anxieties and fears of their children after such a traumatic event. It gives valuable advice on how a trusted adult can support a child or young person, who suddenly finds themselves in this situation.”
While this booklet is about stroke, the authors believe that some of the content regarding talking to children about illness and hospital visiting could just as easily be applied to a lot of other medical conditions and used in a variety of health settings.
Crucial to the project was listening to the experiences of members of the Irish Heart Foundation’s Young Stroke Survivors Network and asking them what would have helped them and their families.
This new guide is in line with best practices internationally. In Norway, laws have been passed that require hospitals to have special staff who are responsible for supporting families including children after a parent suffers a severe physical illness or injury.
The CHATS booklet is a quality improvement project under the guidance of Mary Hickey, Quality Improvement Lead at Tallaght University Hospital. It was funded by a grant from the Meath Foundation. It was beautifully illustrated by Caroline Hyland with input from Alison Baker Kerrigan of the Arts & Health Department. An animated video has also been produced to support the new guide.
You can read the CHATS booklet by clicking this link You can watch the animated video by clicking here