Just as children react in different ways to injuries, so do parents. Some minimize their child’s pain and say, “You’re okay. 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: “It really hurts when you scrape your knee.” But children get hurt so frequently that it can be hard for parents to constantly comfort and reassure them. Yet some young children seem to need attention for each new cut, bump, or bruise.
Try not to overreact to your child’s injuries. Some parents who usually realize they’re overreacting but have trouble controlling 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, their child 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’ll feel rejected by this statement and not understand the safety message you intend to pass on. 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 rushing 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. Your child 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 an accident, and you might feel better if you bring someone along to help and comfort 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.”