Going through a traumatic event such as a burn accident and sustaining major injuries can cause significant feelings of loss and grief amongst both adult and child survivors. Children may go through the grieving process and demonstrate many changes in behavior during their recuperation. In addition to using individual and family counseling and psychological therapies, there are many other strategies parents can use when helping children cope with a burn injury.
What types of losses might child burn survivors have?
Burn trauma and the long road of recovery is filled with loss. Each child and family handles a major burn incident differently, and much depends on the circumstances of the burn accident and of the particular family. Some of the losses child burn survivors may have to face include:
- The loss of their prior appearance
- The loss of their pre-injury lifestyle and recreational activities
- The loss of a limb or limited mobility and range of motion
- The loss of certain dreams and hopes for their future
- The loss of other loved ones or pets in the accident that caused their injuries
- The loss of their home and possessions
- The loss of friends and family relationships
How can I help my child cope with loss?
The first thing to do is understand that the grieving process is normal for children who have sustained severe burns. Your child’s mental health support team can explain what to expect throughout the grieving process and ways you can offer support.
Consider these tips for helping your child cope with loss, but remember that these tips may not be appropriate for children of all ages. Work with professional to find age-appropriate options.
Plan school reentry
Although you or your child may be nervous about school reentry, do not avoid the subject. Discuss returning to school as soon as possible to allow him time to get used to the idea. Also, be sure to contact your child’s school and involve staff members in his reentry.
Allow your child to express himself, but do not press the issue
Understand that your child may act differently after his injury. Allow him to express himself and let him know that he can always talk to you about his injuries and feelings, but do not pressure him to talk if he is not yet comfortable.
Explore support groups and therapy in your area
Be sure to check out support groups in your area. Some might cater to burn survivors specifically, while others might cater to survivors of trauma.
You may also want to look into therapy – both for your child and the rest of the family. Consider whether you think group therapy or one-on-one therapy would be best for your child.
How do I talk to my child about his injuries?
It is not uncommon for parents of children with burn injuries to be at a loss for how to speak with their children about their injuries. Each situation is different, but there are a few things to remember.
- Talk to him in an age-appropriate manner, but do not sugarcoat things: Some children are unprepared to hear certain things and others may not understand. However, make sure you are honest with your child about his injuries. Lying or omitting things may make it worse.
- Do not tell him how to feel: Everyone processes things differently; let your child know that the way he feels and how he is reacting is okay. If he feels nothing, do not pressure him. Do not judge his emotions or lack thereof.
- Allow him to express his feelings: He may be angry or sad. It is important to allow him to express those feelings. Do not take his reactions or his words personally.
- Listen: Be sure to give him your full attention; let him know you care about him and his feelings and that you will always be there to listen to him.
Do I need to seek help from a mental health professional?
If you feel like your child’s behaviors are not improving and he is having an exceedingly hard time adjusting to life after the injury, seek help from your child’s burn care team. The Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center (MSKTC) recommends calling a mental health professional if you notice the following:
- Your child has a major change in personality or behaviors that linger for more than two months after returning home from the hospital
- He is too scared to return to school
- His psychological or emotional issues are getting in the way of normal routines
Also know that you may have grounds for a legal case to recover compensation for expenses and losses associated with the injury. If you need to speak to a lawyer about any legal options you have to recover your expenses or recover compensation for the effects of the injury on your child, call our lawyer referral specialists at 844-549-8774 to find a lawyer in your area.