The most frightening parts of parenthood are when your child gets sick or hurt. You feel helpless to ease their pain. You may even panic or overreact over the slightest fall or sneeze, especially with your firstborn.
The truth is, moms and dads, your anxiety will be much worse for more serious injuries. However, these tips can help you avoid the freakout the first time your child breaks a bone.
1. Calm Your Own Panic
The most important thing you can do when your child breaks a bone is to remain calm. It won’t be easy – after all, you’re only human – but a little faith in yourself will go a long way.
Your child will look to you for how to react. Yes, they’ll be in pain, but your face will show them if they should be scared. Kids trust you know more than they do and will instinctively follow your reaction.
Take control of the situation by getting control over your anxiety and fears. Try these three methods to regain your composure and think more clearly.
Practically any technique will do as long as it works to slow down your breathing rate. When you panic, you take quick, shallow breaths, which deprives you of oxygen and worsens your fight or flight response. Slowing your breathing will help you think more clearly and lessen your anxiety.
Once you’ve taken a few breaths, spare a moment to envision yourself in a calm state. Picture your body perfectly relaxed and your breathing even. Feel capable of dealing with whatever life throws at you. This mental image is empowering and might transfer some confidence and calm you desperately need.
Challenge Negative Thinking
Whenever you hear or see your child get hurt, you probably immediately jump to the worst-case scenario. Challenge that negative thinking by asking yourself a few simple questions:
- Is my child’s life in danger?
- What’s the worst possible outcome?
- What do I know about the situation already?
This list isn’t exhaustive or case-specific, but asking yourself questions like these will help ground you in the moment and keep you centered on reality, not a string of what-ifs.
2. Be Prepared
Probably the best way to keep your cool is to fight fear with knowledge. You likely reached this article because you’re trying to do just that. The idea of your son or daughter breaking a bone someday is scary. Gathering information ahead of time will come in handy when it eventually happens.
Every situation and child is different, but in general, there are a few things you should know if your child breaks a bone:
Basic First Aid
First off, you should have a good first-aid kit with you no matter where you go. Pop one in your car and keep one stocked at home.
You’ll want to remove or cut away clothing from the area so you can see better. You can also apply an ice pack and make them as comfortable as possible. Try not to move them far until you can call for help.
How To Assess A Possible Break
If you see the bone sticking out, call 911 immediately. Otherwise, check for these warning signs of a break:
- Extreme pain
- Abnormal angles or protrusions
- Difficulty or inability to move the area
Once you have an idea of the symptoms and severity, call your pediatrician for further assistance.
Who To Call And Where To Go
Again, visible bone always requires an immediate call to emergency services. Signs of a break without bone showing should mean a call to the pediatrician. From there, they’ll give you instructions on what to do and where to go. They may have you put on a temporary splint to prevent damage in transit.
When there’s no bone showing, you can usually avoid the emergency room and its astronomical fees. Instead, you can go to an urgent-care facility that offers X-rays.
3. Ease Their Pain And Anxiety
The other two tips focus on your internal and external calm, but part of not freaking out is prioritizing what your child needs in the moment. Your feelings are entirely valid, but your emotional pain should take a backseat to the physical and emotional pain they’re experiencing. Plus, helping your child feel better will help you overcome your anxiety as well.
You can help them use the same techniques you tried – breathing exercises, visualization, and challenging negative thinking. However, you’ll need to adapt these strategies based on your child’s level of pain and age. A teenager might do alright with visualization and thought reframing, but a younger kid might get frustrated.
One last piece of advice when your child breaks a bone? Avoid telling them they’re “OK.” While it may not seem problematic to you, children can read those words as dismissing their problems. They’re crying because they very much are not alright.
Instead, sympathize with them and help them label what they’re feeling. For example, “I watched you fall off the monkey bars, and I can see you’re really hurting. What can I do for you right now?” After you’ve given them some comfort, you can let them know you need to make a call. Stay by their side the whole time.
Keeping Everyone Calm
No matter your child’s age, never underestimate the power of a good hug. Physical contact calms the parasympathetic nervous system and releases the feel-good hormone oxytocin. You’ll both feel much better afterward and can move on to some deep breathing.