When a Kid Gets Hurt


Featured Picture Book

BOO HOO BIRD by Jeremy Tankard

(Available at your local public library or bookstores, including online stores.)

Boo Hoo Bird got his name when he was bonked playing ball. He started to cry. Then all the animals, one-by-one, came up with a way to make Boo Hoo Bird feel better. They kissed him, hugged him, fed him, bandaged him, and much more. Nothing seemed to work. Perhaps he just enjoyed all the attention. But, about the time his friends gave up trying he said, “‘I think I’m okay now, …’” He found he had to go to great lengths to get his friends’ attention back again. But, he finally did and off they went to play again – with an interesting outcome.

Parenting Thoughts

Feeling What Others Feel

Dr. Mom:  It is important for kids to learn to feel what other kids feel. If others are sad – to feel sad that they are sad. If others are mad or afraid – to understand that they have important reasons to be mad or afraid. If others are happy – to be happy that they are happy.

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It is at about preschool age that children begin to understand and connect with the feelings of others. Some ways they can learn to feel what others feel (empathy):

  • Talk about their own feelings.
  • Learn the names of feelings and be able to name what they feel and what they think others are feeling.
  • Talk about what they think others are feeling – TV characters, brothers and sisters, Mom and Dad, kids at school, or kids they see on the playground.

Darling Daughter:  I remember doing this with Ezzy at preschool age but we did it with picture books. After we had read the books a few times I would stop at certain points and ask E what she thought the characters were feeling.

            Great use of picture books!

  • Learn to make make amends or make up for mistakes they make (for example, when they hurt someone – even when they don’t mean to).
Taking Care of Others

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Kids need to help take care of people who are hurt – especially if they had anything to do with the person being hurt – even if it is just an accident. Why? It gives them a chance to build or develop:

  • A sense of well-being – that everything is right in the world.
  • Self-esteem – “I’m a good person. I can help make things right – even if I made a mistake.”
  • Empathy – when you get up close and personal with others’ feelings, you understand more and more about feelings – both yours and others’.

E was always the runner for the “pink kitty.” Pink Kitty is one of those little round gel -filled cold packs for kids’ “boo-boos.” It just so happed this one was pink and had a cute cartoon cat’s face on it – thus Pink Kitty.

The Need for Attention

The need for attention is one of our most basic, have-to-have needs – just like food. It starts the minute a child is born. New babies need to know they are important to the people around them.  It’s not enough to just make sure they are fed, clean and warm – even though that is what we spend most of our time doing with babies.

This story about an orphanage is often told to explain how important human attention and human contact is for babies.  In this orphanage, the babies were well cared for.  They were fed, kept clean and warm.  But, they were not held, cuddled and given person-to-person contact.  Sadly, the babies didn’t survive in this orphanage.  They were missing one essential thing – attention.  They needed to be held, touched, cooed at and smiled at as much as they needed food.

Older children also crave attention. It just looks and sounds different than with young children. The lack of needed attention for older kids can look like misbehavior, drugs, temper tantrums, depression, and the like.

I definitely feel like our house runs better and “feels” better when I make an effort to spend some quality time with E. Something other than time spent working on homework. Some of the ways I try to fit it in: We cook dinner together (She’s great at reading the recipe, retrieving ingredients, and measuring ingredients.), play a game (even if it is just a 20-minute card game), or sometimes we just plop on the couch and watch her favorite show together.

In our featured book, Boo Hoo Bird was probably milking his boo-boo to get attention. But, even though attention is a good thing, giving the right amount at the right time is important. It is true, “Too much of a good thing isn’t really good.”

Kids need extra attention when they are hurt. But, children as they grow older also need to learn that they can take care of themselves. The balance between parent-care and self-care changes as the child gets older. The younger the child, the more parent care; the older the child, the more self-care.

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One of the best ways to strike a good balance for caring for a child who is hurt is to ask the child what he needs. If the child is very young, you can do the talking and problem-solving while taking care of him. It’s amazing what infants and toddlers can understand from your words in combination with your actions – even before they are doing much talking themselves.

You can say things like: “Do you need a kiss?” “Would rocking feel good?” Even though you are not expecting the child to answer, you are planting seeds for him learning to know what he needs – very important for all of us kids and adults alike.

We are still doing this with E now (at 11 ½), and she still struggles figuring out what she needs. I am leaving it up to her more and more instead of just doing for her, and I find I am “doing” less and less. It is interesting that she usually doesn’t need as much help as I thought. If I hadn’t waited for her clues, I probably would have smothered her and overindulged her.

If she seems stuck, then I will explain to her that sometimes if helps if you do this or that and give her some choices. If she seems to have an idea but is just not saying what she needs, I tell her to let me know when she needs something, and I’ll be glad to help her. Then, I’ll check in with her a couple more times to give her the opportunity to say what she needs and to let her know I am still available to help her when she is ready.

Older children can talk for themselves and tell you they need a Band-Aid or a hug or to be by themselves. Remember that even teens need attention when they are hurt. It will just look different than when they were younger. They may need a pat on the shoulder, your watching a favorite TV show with them, or listening to them talk about what happened – without jumping in with your advice (unless asked).

Another way to strike a good balance is to let the child say if it hurts, where it hurts, and how much it hurts. Don’t add more drama to the situation than the child does. A “you-poor-thing” approach won’t help the child believe he will be just fine nor will it help him learn to take charge and do something about his problem. Instead, “You poor thing” will lead to “Poor me.”

We learned early to pay attention to how much anxiety, worry, or stress we showed E after a boo-boo. She tends to take in our upset and give it back even more. Sometimes I worry that I’m downplaying things too much. It is a hard balance to find. I don’t want her to be alert to things that need attention, and I don’t want her to think that I don’t take her injury, distress, or discomfort seriously and then not take it seriously enough herself.

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One caution. A very common response to boo-boo’s is comfort food. Be careful with that. We now know that overeating can be caused by your learning at a very early age that you need calories every time you feel bad. If you think something comforting to eat is a good way to attend to your child who is hurt, think of something other than cookies and ice cream – maybe a warm drink or some fruit – yummy, comforting foods that are still good for you.

Read All About It

GROWING UP AGAIN, Jean Illsley Clarke and Connie Dawson

SELF ESTEEM A FAMILY AFFAIR, Jean Illsley Clarke

HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH? Jean Illsley Clarke, Connie Dawson, and David Bredehoft

 Surf the Internet:
  • empathy in kids
  • making amends
  • kids and attention
  • St. Patrick’s Day
  • International Day of Happiness
  • The Happiness Project
  • overindulgence

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