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New guide helps children after parent suffers a stroke

 3 members of the team are standing in a row holding the new CHATS booklet



“Reading this booklet you realise you are not alone at this scary time,” according to a stroke patient praising a new booklet developed at Tallaght University Hospital (TUH) aimed at supporting adults/parents in talking to children after an adult has suffered a stroke. The mum explained that her son was 13 when she had a stroke and she wished it had been available then to “explain to him what happened at the time.”

Entitled ‘CHATS: Children Helped by Adults to Talk about Stroke,’ the new booklet was developed by Dr Áine Connolly, Principal Clinical Psychologist and Wendy Moynan, Social Work Team Leader at TUH. Feedback from families has been very positive, reflecting the authors’ many years of experience helping patients and families navigate the difficult adjustment after a stroke.

Practical guide

According to Professor Rónán Collins, HSE Clinical Lead for the National Stroke Programme, almost “25% of strokes in Ireland happen to those individuals who are parents of children and young people. This new booklet is a valuable educational and practical guide for parents and other adults to begin communicating about what has happened. I wish to congratulate the entire team involved in this thoughtful and valuable project.” 

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 at TUH recognised that there was a gap in terms of the provision of accessible, good-quality information. 

Communicating honestly

Co-author Wendy Moynan noted that the booklet was 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.”

Dr Connolly hopes that the 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.


A quality improvement project under the guidance of Mary Hickey, Quality Improvement Lead at TUH, the booklet was funded by a grant from the Meath Foundation. It was illustrated by Caroline Hyland with input from Alison Baker Kerrigan of the TUH Arts and Health Department. An animated video has also been produced to support the new guide.