I waved to my kids as they rode by in the car with my husband. I pushed by toddler in his stroller to get coffee and a scone for him. I walked back home.
One block from our house, I stopped and looked in all directions to see cars waiting at stop signs for us to cross. Halfway through one lane of the two lane road, I saw an SUV out of the corner of my eye. I heard the sound of it hitting my body, but the feeling didn’t register.
I opened by eyes and stood up from the pavement. Three thoughts came in quick succession: 1. Get my baby out of the road. Is he okay? 2. Call my husband. Did someone call an ambulance? 3. How will my kids, recently adopted, react? Is this more trauma?
Parents being injured is frightening for any child. Parents being injured is especially frightening for a child from a traumatic background… even more so if the trauma they’ve previously experienced is related to physical injury.
My older kids were very understandably scared of me for a while. My toddler was very understandably just plain scared for a while. But I worked hard to consider how best to connect with them and comfort them through this really hard experience.
So, what to do, if you, as a parent, are injured? How do you continue to connect with your kids from hard places and reassure them of all the right things?
+ Use narrative: Tell the story with straightforward, honest facts in an age-appropriate manner. My older kids wanted to know exactly what happened, so I told them. I didn’t discourage their questions and interest. I didn’t lie to them or omit key facts. My toddler, who experienced it all firsthand, benefitted from narrative, too. When he asked about my “hurts,” I reminded him of the story and the happy ending. “Mommy is okay now. Mommy is getting better.” When he woke up crying in the night, I reminded him of the same.
+ Let them determine “closeness”: Let kids call the shots on how much and what type of time they spend with you. My older kids were scared of how I looked. I was scared of how I looked. I made sure to be around them instead of retreating to the bedroom to ice my face at all times. But I respected their kind requests when they didn’t want me to be close. They didn’t want me to help with bedtime for a couple days. Instead of pushing my presence on them, I celebrated when they asked me to come lay with them again.
+ Allow them to hurt: When we hurt, our kids hurt. It hurts to see someone hurt. And in many situations, it might trigger fears of death and separation. My sons suddenly had injuries they wanted treated. I used it as an opportunity to model kind, gentle, concerned behavior for someone who is hurt. I used their requests for bandages as an opportunity to touch and connect. They loved it. And as mommy’s hurts got better, theirs did, too.