Trauma and medical needs, helping kids and parents cope

This morning, I finally sat down to put figurative pen to paper on a blog post about the tough choices parents face during difficult or painful medical procedures.

This afternoon, I spent some quality time with my Feedly backlog and found this article on helping kids deal with trauma. “Trauma Protection for Kids with Special Needs | Different Dream”

That was serendipity. πŸ™‚

Teddy’s had more painful things done to him than I care to remember. Most while awake. Most necessary, and most without viable alternatives. It is an unfortunate fact of life for many medical needs kiddos.

And many parents of these kids struggle to figure out their role during these times. Do they stay? Do they leave? Do they help? Do they observe?

If you leave, the thinking goes, your role is one of comforter. Your child doesn’t associate you with the pain, just with the comfort. But then does your child feel abandoned? Are you leaving them just when they need you most? Will they become clingy, fearful that every time you leave the room, someone will hurt them?

If you stay, you can provide support for your child during the procedure. But then are you participating in the hurt? In helping hold your child still, or even simply observing the hurt, are you teaching them that they can’t always trust you to keep them safe?

No easy choices there.

Personally, I have always opted to participate in whatever’s going on. I can hold him firmly but gently, snuggling and kissing in addition to immobilizing. I personally feel like this is a better option than having only medical staff holding him. I can talk him through the procedure, giving voice to what he is probably thinking. And I can be right there with a big hug, snuggle, tuck into the carrier, clothes, blanket, bubbles, whatever he seems to need in the moment the procedure is finished.

We rely on Child Life a lot, too. I feel that I’m better at empathy and they’re better at entertainment. πŸ™‚

Then, though the techniques in the linked article are meant for older kids, I loved loved finding that I’m already doing what they recommend to help kids deal with trauma. Teddy and I talk about what’s going to happen to him in advance, and I talk to him during any procedure, too. I talk to him about what’s happening factually, and I talk to him about how he may be feeling. “You dont like it when she holds your arm down. She holds it like that to keep it nice and still so we can be finished sooner. I know – ouchie ouchie! I hate the tourniquet, too. It’s so tight! You want to take it off. I’m sorry. We’ll let you pull it off when we’re finished.”

As he gets older, we’ll start introducing some therapeutic play, too. He’s already stolen enough tourniquets to open up a small clinic. πŸ™‚


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