Parenting 101: How to Gently Respond to Children Who Are Hurt

Parenting 101 is a series of posts that I have written to help out new parents by teaching them little tricks and tips to make this whole journey a bit easier.  They are not Earth shattering revelations, and they do not follow any certain parenting philosophy.  They are simply tips to make life with children a bit easier for everyone.

Children who have been hurt.  This seems like it would be a fairly simple thing to respond to.  But a lot of the time, when something happens to our children, we become so overwhelmed that it can be difficult to find an appropriate response to give them.  I’ve developed this system to help parents work quickly and easily through helping a child out of distress.

It only takes a SECOND to help a child who has been hurt.  I’m going to illustrate this with an example that happened at our house last night – Sofi fell out of bed in the wee small hours of the night!

SURVEY the situation, especially if you didn’t witness the accident.  A quick look around can often tell you a lot.
When I arrived on the scene, Papa had lifted Sofi back into bed, but I could still see her bedside lamp overturned on the floor, and some things that are supposed to be under the bed but were beside the bed instead had also been overturned.  This told me that she had hit them on her way down, which could indicate an injury and also told me where she may be injured – her head and her torso.  She was still crying and not able to tell us much at that point.

ENSURE SAFETY.  Physically check the child for injuries, especially if the child is unable to give a verbal response regarding injuries.
Sofi wasn’t really able to tell me where she was hurt, but I knew that she had likely hit the lamp with her head, and that her torso was possibly hurt, so I was quickly able to feel for swelling and bleeding.  Gently rubbing the places she had hit helped her to stop crying.  Most of the time, this is the type of accident that we have met with.  We have had a few where she did incur a serious injury, including a broken hand and even a concussion.  Once we had assessed her safety in these situations, we moved on to getting medical help for her.  Then we continued through these steps, although we found that it was on a longer time-frame for those injuries.

CALM the child down by providing a calm presence yourself, projecting love toward the child, and providing hugs, kisses, rubs, bandaids, songs, or whatever helps your child to calm down.
Sofi was calmed at this point simply by my presence and my gentle words and caresses.  Every child needs something different to help calm him or her down, so support your child in a way that he or she needs.  One side note – ordering a child not to hurt really isn’t helpful.  It doesn’t actually make the child not hurt, is likely to upset the child further, and teaches the child to stuff down his or her own feelings in favor of maintaining a calm front.  It is better to actually help the child to calm down and regain composure.

ORGANIZE the space around the child again.
Return the area to what it should look like.  Having the area in a disheveled state resulting from the accident can cause the child to continue being upset about the accident.  In our case, simply picking up the lamp, righting the things from under the bed and placing them under the bed, and getting the bed ready to be slept in again really helped to center Sofi.

NOW  Help the child to focus on the present, not the past.
Once the accident is over, we don’t need to return to it with the child and discuss it for an extended period of time.  We need to establish ourselves in the now and move forward from there.  If there is a problem that needs to be corrected to help keep the accident from recurring, address it, but don’t dwell or shame.  In our example, Sofi often ends up curled up on the edge of her bed and any type of movement will roll her off the edge.  So, when she was curling back up on the edge to return to sleep, I simply helped her to move over to the center of the bed.

DISENGAGE  Now that you have helped the child to right the situation, give back his or her autonomy.  Disengage yourself and allow the child to pick back up where he or she left off.
In our case, this meant letting Sofi go back to sleep, and going back to bed ourselves.  In the case of a fall off a bike, it means giving the choice to get back on the bike and try again or moving on to another activity.  In any event, it means that the child was doing something when the accident occurred and once the child and the situation have been righted, the child should be allowed to continue with his or her activity, in his or her own manner.

So, to recap, just remember SECOND.

Survey the situation.
Ensure safety
Organize the area again


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