What should I do about falls and accidents?

Young children spend so much time running, climbing, and jumping that minor injuries are inevitable. Sometimes a child is so absorbed in play that she ignores her scrapes and goes right back to her game, perhaps after yelling, “You bumped me, you stupid chair.” At other times, especially when she’s tired, she may cry for a long time after a fall.

A child’s reaction to an injury often depends on who’s around her. Since she feels most comfortable expressing her feelings to her parents, she might cry or complain more about a fall when they’re with her. Many parents have seen their child fall, get up looking unhurt, and then start crying as soon as she sees them. A child cries like this because she wants to be comforted. If her parents are not close by, she may comfort herself or seek help from another child or adult. Adults react the same way to their own injuries: when an adult bumps into something at home where he’s comfortable, he’ll express his pain, but if he hurts himself away from home, he’s likely to hide his discomfort.

The way a child reacts to a fall also depends on her age. A very young child is much more likely than a four- or five-year-old to cry after a minor injury. One five-year-old told her friend, “Just don’t think about your cut and it won’t hurt anymore.”

Many children want Band-Aids for every scrape and bruise. Band-Aids seem magical to a young child because she believes that once small cuts are covered up, they’re gone. Parents can make Band-Aids easily accessible and should let their child wear one whenever she thinks she needs it, even if she just wants to cover an old scab she’s rediscovered-the comfort is worth the small expense.

Just as children react in different ways to injuries, so do parents. Some minimize their child’s pain and say, “You’re OK. Stop crying.” Others offer to rub or kiss the sore spot. Certainly children need comfort when they’re upset after a fall, and they need to know their parents understand: “Yes, I know it really hurts when you scrape your knee.” But children get hurt so frequently that it can be hard for parents constantly to comfort and reassure. Yet, some young children seem to need attention for each new cut, bump, or bruise.

Parents should try not to overreact to their child’s injuries. Some parents, who usually realize they’re overreacting but have trouble con-trolling their impulses, rush to their child after a fall, anxiously asking, “Are you all right?” When a child sees her parents looking so concerned, she may start to cry simply because she thinks something must be wrong. If parents continually overreact, she may eventually feel that she’s incapable of making herself feel better, and that she should seek help for even minor accidents.

Some parents are very uncomfortable seeing their son cry after a fall. They may tell him, “You’re a big boy, you can handle it. It’s only a little cut.” Even now, there are parents who think it’s all right for girls, but not for boys, to cry. Parents should remember that young children of both sexes sometimes need comfort and sometimes need to handle minor injuries on their own.

When you watch your child playing, you probably warn her about dangerous situations: “Don’t climb up there or you’ll fall!” If she climbs and falls anyway, you may have a hard time being sympathetic. It’s tempting to say, “I told you you’d get hurt if you played like that,” but if your child is in need of comfort, she will feel rejected by such a statement and not understand the safety message you intend. In such a situation, you should pay attention to her pain while also telling her that what she did was unsafe.

On rare occasions, your child’s injury may be serious enough for a trip to the doctor or the hospital. A serious accident is always frightening for parents and children, especially if there’s a great deal of rush and concern. If your child needs special treatment, reassure her: “I know your arm hurts and I’m going to see what we can do to make you feel better. That’s why we’re going to the hospital.”

Try to remain calm and explain (or ask the doctors or nurses to explain) the medical procedures to your child. Let her know if she will be put on a stretcher or in a papoose, and if a particular procedure will be painful. You and she may not be able to avoid pain and unpleasantness in this situation, but you can be there to help her and go with her to the treatment room if permitted.

It’s always hard to see your child in pain after a serious accident, and you might feel better if you bring someone along to help and com-fort you-a friend, neighbor, or relative. As one mother said after her daughter received stitches, “I hear about this happening to other children, but it’s very different when it happens to your own.”

Picture Credit : Google