When we are faced with stress, injury and/or trauma, we all react differently. This is true of both adults and children, but we can sometimes underestimate the impact that a parent’s injury can have on their children. It’s not just about coming to terms with the physical changes they see in their parent, but also the emotional stress involved. From the unsettled routine to seeing their parents in distress, it’s a time which needs to be approached with delicacy and understanding. Here are some simple ways you can help your child to cope when a parent is unwell or injured.
Keep communication lines open
Your kid is likely to have a lot of questions about what has happened and what will happen in the future. If you don’t give them the opportunity to ask questions and understand the situation, you leave them to their imagination. This is when confusion and panic can set in. Explain what has happened to you or your partner as clearly as you can but in a way which is suitable for their age and level of understanding. If the injured or unwell parent is in hospital, but visiting is an option, then you can ensure they stay connected to their parent and keep their anxiety to a minimum. If visiting them in person isn’t appropriate, consider using a telephone or video calling so to keep them connected as far as possible.
Encourage them to express their emotions
Your child is going to be experiencing a range of emotions at this time, and they need to be able to express them. Some children are able to do this verbally, but others may respond better if given the opportunity to draw or paint pictures. If they like to write stories, this is a great opportunity to get them to do so and take note of the issues and feelings that they choose to write about. Spend quality time with them as often as you can and ask them questions about what they say or create so you can understand what they’re going through. Share your own feelings where appropriate so they know they are not alone and what they’re going through is completely normal. For some great advice on helping children express their emotions, click here.
Remember to look after yourself
Whether you’re the parent has suffered the injury, or you’re looking after a child who has an unwell parent, don’t forget about your own wellbeing. It’s crucial that you practice self-care to look after both your physical and mental health during this stressful time. If you are tired or not in control of your emotions in front of them, you won’t be able to provide the child with the care and support they need. Even if you feel that your child is emotionally mature, it’s not fair to burden them with your own emotional struggles. Find an adult friend or family member who you can talk through your feelings and anxieties with so you can be a rock for your child.
If you’re the parent recovering from illness or injury, looking after your physical health is obviously going to be a top priority. However, even if you’re not the parent who is unwell, it’s still important to stay healthy during times of emotional turmoil. Eat a balanced diet, maintain a regular sleep routine and get some physical exercise as often as you can.
Get the right support
In some cases, it might be appropriate to find a therapist or professional counselor who can support both you and your child therapeutically. This could be a school guidance counselor or through a referral to a mental health professional. Your family and friends will also be able to help you and your children during this time. Maybe they can give you a few hours off to go relax and recharge? Perhaps you need to attend hospital appointments for yourself or your partner and need someone to look after the kids. The wider your support network, the better things will be for you and your children.
Depending on the nature of the injury or illness, you might be able to seek compensation which can help with any lost earnings or medical expenses you may be facing. There are several companies and legal professionals who can offer you compassionate and accurate advice through compensation claims. In fact, several lawyers specialize in certain types of injuries such as those sustained in the workplace, car or motorcycle incidents. Visit MG Miller Law for more info on finding appropriate legal representation for a motorcycle accident injury.
Talk to their teachers
If it’s appropriate to do so, tell your child’s teachers or other responsible adults in their life such as sport coaches or club leaders. Your child’s behavior may change as they try to handle the stress and the emotional upset that they are facing. It’s important that they and you communicate so you can identify any concerning changes and so they can manage their approach to the child with sensitivity.
If your childwants to help, let them
We all like to feel useful in a crisis and children are no different. If there are ways for them to help, or at least feel that they are being helpful, let them. This could be by bringing the injured parent a drink or a snack or (depending on their age) some pain medication. Are there chores they can help with in the house so they can keep busy and take some of the pressure off you and your partner? A fantastic way to get smaller children involved in a parent’s recovery is through drawing pictures or writing letters for the injured parent’s hospital room. Make sure they know that everything they do is appreciated.
Try to maintain a routine
It’s often best to keep to a routine for your children as far as possible. Bath time, story time, seeing grandparents, meal times, movie and popcorn on a Saturday night – whatever your kid is used to, try and keep it up. Some aspects of daily life may need to change, especially if you or your partner has suffered lifechanging illness or injury, but consistency is key to providing your child with stability as much as possible.
Prepare them for changes ahead If there are changes ahead, you need to prepare your child as much as you can. For example, if their parent has gone through physical changes because of their injury you may want to use a doll to explain what has happened to them. If there’s a possibility that they may be shocked when they see the parent for the first time, give them something they can do together such as reading a book or playing a game so they can get their relationship back to normal.