After The Injury – Helping Parents Help Their Kids Recover

July 15, 2009

While doctors at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia know that injury prevention is the best “medicine,” the sad fact is that kids do get hurt. In fact, 9.2 million children are injured each year, making it equally important for parents to know how to handle what happens after the injury.

It can be tough on kids and parents alike to deal with a potentially frightening accident or visit to the emergency room or hospital. While most do well after an injury, the prescription for a full recovery is to take care of the pain and physical healing while paying attention to the emotional needs of the injured child and their family.  Traumatic stress symptoms are common soon after a serious illness, injury or hospitalization. Even though the child is the one ill or injured, the whole family can be affected.

The good news is that there are things parents can do to make sure their child, themselves, and the rest of the family are coping with both the physical and emotional effects of an accident – at the hospital, after the hospital, and long term. 

Here are some tips from the experts at The Center for Injury Research and Prevention at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia:

At the hospital:

  • Be patient with your child: Children’s reactions can include crying, temper tantrums, whining, clinging, and acting out in frustration. These feelings and behaviors are common but usually temporary. If your child’s behavior is becoming unmanageable, it’s okay to set rules and limits like you would at home.
  • Help your child see the hospital staff as helpers: Remind your child that the staff has a lot of experience helping children feel better. Encourage your child to participate by asking his or her own questions to the doctors or nurses. It’s important for you as a parent to have accurate information, so ask your own questions too.
  • For more about these and 6 other tips download our tip sheet or visit our website about how to work with the hospital healthcare team.

After the hospital:

  • Set normal limits. You may be tempted to relax the rules in order to help your child feel special, or to make up for the hard times that he or she is experiencing. However, it is often better for your child if you set normal limits on behavior and keep most of your family rules and expectations the same.
  • Allow your children to talk about feelings and worries, if they want to. For younger children, encourage play, drawing, and story-telling. Ask your child (and brothers and sisters) what they are thinking, feeling, and imagining. Be a good listener—and share the facts, as well as your feelings and reactions.
  • Help your child do some things on his or her own. It is often tempting to do things for your child after he or she is injured or ill. But it is more helpful for children to do things again on their own. As much as the injury or illness allows, encourage your child to do the things (including chores) he or she used to do.
  • For more about these and 5 other tips download our tip sheet or visit our website about how parents can help their child recover from injury.

Helping your child cope:

  • Go back to everyday routines. Help your child get enough sleep, eat regularly, keep up with school, and – as much as the injury allows – go back to doing things with friends.
  • Keep in mind that people in the same family can react in different ways. Remember, your child’s feelings and worries about the injury might be different from yours. Brothers and sisters can feel upset too, even if they were not involved.
  • Take time to deal with your own feelings. It will be harder to help your child if you are worried or upset. Talk about your feelings with other adults, such as family, friends, clergy, your doctor, or a counselor.
  • For more about these and 5 other tips, download our tip sheet or create a personalized care plan for your injured child

Visit to read full tip sheets, learn more about child injury and pain care, take a quiz to rate your child's reactions to injury, and create a personalized care plan help parents help their child recover from injury.  This website was developed by an interdisciplinary team of researchers and practitioners with expertise in pediatric injury, child health care, and traumatic stress. Primary authors of site content are Flaura Winston, MD, PhD, and Nancy Kassam-Adams, PhD.. Our team includes pediatricians, psychologists, trauma surgeons, trauma nurses, and others. Since 1996, this team at The Center for Injury Research and Prevention at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia has been at the forefront of research about the effect of injury on children and their parents. You can also follow After The Injury on twitter and be kept up to date with tips and the latest news.

Mom 4 Life. Now that Ashley owns Mom 4 Life, I am focusing my energies in homeschooling and asking God to use me in other areas.

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