As a pediatrician and a mom, I understand that one of the toughest experiences of parenthood is having a child who’s been hurt. Whether it’s a deep gash, or something much more serious, it can throw parents and kids for a loop. While pediatricians know that injury prevention is the best “medicine,” the sad truth is that kids still do get hurt- lots of them- even with the most vigilant parents. In fact, 9.2 million children are treated in an emergency room for an injury each year, making it equally important for parents to know how to handle what happens after the injury.
Here are some quick tips to keep in mind if your child is injured.
1. Remember you are the best person to help your child. If your child ends up needing to go to the hospital, try to be calm and reassuring, although it may be difficult at times. Give frequent hugs and praise. Hold your child’s hand during tests and procedures, and distract your child with stories and pictures.
Learn more about how to handle a hospital visit.
2. Help your child understand what is happening. Explain what is happening in a way he or she can understand. If your child needs to go through a painful procedure, be honest about the fact that it may hurt but also explain its purpose is to help him or her feel better. Listen to what other parents had to say about talking with their kids after an injury.
3. Let your child know that he or she is safe. In the first days and weeks following an injury many children fear that something bad might happen to them again. Learn more about helping your child with new fears or worries.
4. Allow children to talk about their feelings and worries, if they want to. Let your child know that it’s ok to feel a little upset. The circumstances of an injury can be frightening, and it’s not always easy to know how to talk with your child about it. Here are some things that other parents have found helpful for talking with their child.
5. Go back to normal routines. It is important to help your child get plenty of sleep, eat regular meals, keep up with schoolwork, and spend time with friends. Here are some options to consider if the injury gets in the way of things s/he used to do.
6. Increase time with family and friends. Children who get support from family and friends seem to do better in recovering after upsetting events. Try reading together, playing games, or watching movies together. Listen to what some parents had to say about how to help their children remain connected after an injury.
7. Take time to deal with your own feelings. In addition to all of the things you do to help your child, it’s important to remember to take good care of yourself. Learn more about your own reactions and get tips for taking care of yourself.
8. Keep in mind people in the same family can react in different ways. Your child’s feelings and worries about the injury might be different from yours. It’s important to monitor how your child is doing and when reactions might signal trouble. Learn how to gauge your child’s emotional recovery and identify any reactions that might need special attention.
9. Help your child to do things on his or her own. It is often tempting to do things for your child after he or she is injured or ill. But it is more helpful for children to do things again on their own. As much as the injury allows, encourage your child to do the things (including chores) he or she used to do. Learn more about helping children adjust after an injury or trip to the hospital.
10. Take stock of how you and your child are doing after the injury. As you think about how to help your child, try to separate what you are feeling from your child’s experiences and needs. Take a quick quiz to help you gauge your child’s emotional recovery and identify any reactions that might need special attention.
For all the parents of injured children reading this blog, I wish your child full recovery – body and mind. If you know someone who is helping a child recover from injury, please let them know that you are there to support them and so is www.AfterTheInjury.org, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Dr. Flaura Koplin Winston is the mother of 2 boys, as well as a board-certified practicing pediatrician, biomechanical engineer, and clinical researcher at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). She is also the Founder and Scientific Director of the Center for Injury Research and Prevention CHOP. She co-developed www.AfterTheInjury.org with her colleague, Nancy Kassam-Adams, Ph.D.