As a parent, your instinct is to protect your children from any form of harm or distress, but however hard you try, it’s not always possible to prevent unpleasant experiences. Throughout their childhood, even the most loved and well-cared for children will have to face problems, illness, or traumatic experiences at some stage. When these unavoidable incidences occur, your role as a parent is to ensure your child is helped through their trauma and suffers minimal harm. To be able to help your child most effectively, it’s a good idea to be prepared for these eventualities, so you know how to respond.
Most kids get the usual childhood illnesses like coughs and colds and upset tummies now and then, and this is an important part of helping their immune system to develop. These minor illnesses aren’t usually anything to worry about, but they can be horrible for the affected child. It’s important to follow the recommended procedures for caring for a sick child, but not to make too much fuss. You want them to recover quickly and avoid complications, but not to feel like having a cold is the end of the world!
If you think back to when you were their age, you’ll probably recall that time seemed to pass far more slowly than it does now you’re an adult. It doesn’t really, of course, but it’s useful to remember that a child’s perception of time is likely to be vastly different to your own. This will help you stay patient if they seem to be constantly demanding attention – only half an hour may have gone by on the clock, but for them, it could feel like ages.
More serious illnesses do unfortunately affect children sometimes. You should be aware of the symptoms that require medical attention, such as a fever or unresponsiveness so that if your child displays any of these symptoms you know, they need professional help. The best approach to take with a sick child is to be loving and attentive, without frightening them by getting upset in front of them.
With any health problems, it’s important that your child has enough time to recover and isn’t rushed off their feet within days of being on the mend. This means being firm but fair; they may have to miss out on an arrangement with friends, for example, but when it comes to health, it’s important to put your foot down.
Accidents and injuries
Just like common childhood illnesses, bumps and scrapes are a normal part of growing up, and most kids have a collection of bruises and scabs from falling over or bumping into things. Again, it’s perfectly healthy, and nothing to worry about – staying in and trying to avoid these knocks and minor injuries is far more likely to lead to health problems than the odd bruise. If your child injures themselves, clean the wound to stop it getting infected, and keep a box of plasters to hand.
If your child injures themselves more seriously, they may need stitches for a wound or if they get a bang on the head, an assessment for a concussion. You should keep your first aid skills up to date, and know how to treat wounds, apply pressure to stop bleeding, and use resuscitation techniques. Most kids don’t suffer too much trauma after injuring themselves unless the way they were injured was particularly scary for them.
Car accidents or falls from horses and bikes at high speed are examples of events where your child may suffer only minor physical injuries but feels the effect far more in their mind. After an accident, keep an eye on your child and see if they have any symptoms of post-traumatic stress. If they’ve been in an accident, even if they’re not injured at all, they may be affected by the shock.
Obviously, you should comfort your child after any incident, and make sure they’re ok physically. Then monitor their behaviour for signs of trauma, for example, if they start looking up from what they’re doing or tensing every time you brake, that’s an understandable reaction. If they start screaming and crying every time you brake, that indicates a more serious after-effect, and you should seek help from your doctor or referral to a child therapist.
On a practical note, if you or your family do experience an accident on the road, get in touch with an expert car accident attorney, who can advise you on compensation. Money won’t make up for the trauma, but it could be extremely useful in helping to pay for medical and psychological help for your child.
Learning about death is another important part of growing up. When they first learn about death, most kids accept it without too many issues, because they are young enough to feel removed from the reality of mortality. They might ask questions about when you’re going to die, and could get distressed at the thought of you not being there, but if you are honest and matter of fact about death, they shouldn’t dwell on the idea.
Don’t dismiss their anguish or belittle it, instead help them commemorate the passing in a way that is respectful of the death, but celebrates the positive aspects of having the animal or person in your lives. Allow them to let their grief out, support them with physical comfort, and encourage them to talk about what they’re feeling.
You can’t protect your children from all the troubles of life, and if you try to you won’t be doing them any good. Learning how to deal with the more difficult events and situations in life is an important part of children’s development, giving them the practical and emotional skills to cope when bad things happen.
Just like an immune system that’s never been built up by exposure to viruses, a child whose never experienced trauma and learnt how to deal with it will be ill-prepared for adulthood. Just be sure that when your child is upset, you provide the appropriate care and support to help them through.