If your children are anything like mine, they get hurt about a dozen times a day. Some injuries are real, some imagined, and some engineered completely to try to get her sister in trouble. It is helpful to have a plan for how to handle these everyday boo-boos and owies precisely because it comes up so often.
Here are some tips for handling minor childhood injuries.
Stay calm – This takes practice, but children are sometimes more frightened by a parent’s reaction when they get hurt than by the actual injury itself. I’ve watched my daughter flip backwards over a fence and pop up unhurt. She once fell sideways off a bus bench in a way that magically became a cartwheel and landed on her feet. Sometimes the things that look the most horrible are harmless. Until proven otherwise, move quickly, but assume they are fine. This will serve you either way, allowing you to approach a serious situation with a clear head if one has arisen.
Make them come to you – A friend with many children once advised me while pregnant with my second, that if it’s clear children are not injured in a serious way, make them come to where you are for assistance. She told me that if you set the precedent of running to them for every stubbed toe, those with multiple children can spend all day attending to bumps and nudges. Making them come to you gives them a chance to get themselves together on the way over. Also, for those “brother bumped me!” sorts of claims, they will often decide it isn’t worth it to actually stop playing just to potentially get a sibling or friend in trouble when they aren’t actually hurt.
Ask kids if they are okay (not tell them – Kids need to be able to self-assess when they need help. Many a well-meaning parent will run towards a crying child saying “you’re ok, you’re ok.” This generally means, “I see no visible bleeding or protruding bones.” While this may be true, and we want to help our kids regroup and move on, injuries smart… the body and the pride.
If you empathize and then ask instead, “Ouch, that looked like it hurt… are you ok?” it makes them actually stop to realize that perhaps they are. If they are hurt, they’ll usually be a tearful nod. My next move then becomes, “Are you hurt on your body, or were you only scared (followed if needed by “Where on your body does it hurt?”). After this, some combination of hugs, magic Mommy kisses and occasionally short-lived ice packs generally make quick work of the run-of-the-mill injury.
Focus on the what before the who, how and why – When one kid is crying and another is needed to tell what happened, be sure to teach them to focus on *what* happened to the hurt child, as opposed to who did it or how it happened. Learn to ask first “Where is she hurt?” as opposed to the general “What happened?” or “Why is she crying?” The latter will most often lead to a meandering tale with lots of qualifiers about how it was an accident or why the other child started it before getting around to what part of the body needs attention.
Kids are even less likely to want to specifically name an injury if they feel they are responsible for it, so keep that initial focus off of blame or fault. If they start to go that way, be clear they will get to tell that story in a moment, but you are not interested yet in who did what, but only where the hurt child’s body needs attention. (When you do get the story, and if one child hurt another, see my articles on forced apologies and their alternatives ).
If you handle minor injuries consistently, kids will eventually catch on to your methods and save you some trouble by short-cutting right to “I’m OK!” or “Mom, I bumped by head on the wall by accident, can you kiss it?” When they are tall enough, they might eventually fetch an ice pack on their own and tell you what happened only in passing. Not only does this save a lot of drama in daily life, but also tips parents off quickly that an injury might be more serious if kids don’t take them in stride.
When ice packs are needed… either for actual injuries, or for “psychological” healing, these pearl style ice packs are great because they mold to most body parts and actually are cold enough to be helpful. I use the adult (non-animal!) versions all the time and was excited to find these for kids:
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