Sometimes when we talk about coping, it may sound like your child should be triumphantly taking a spinal tap like the Hulk would.
This is not the case!
Coping doesn't mean your child won't cry, be angry, upset, or scream.
Crying is an expression of how your child is feeling.
Children should be allowed to express their feelings.
Our role is to allow children to cry and validate their feelings.
"Yes, this is not fun."
"You can be upset about this."
"You can tell us that you don't like this. It's ok that you don't."
"It's ok that you're scared, anxious, upset, etc. Crying may be helping you feel better right now."
Don't tell your child not to cry.
Doing that is not supportive.
If your child is crying and you think she is "being dramatic" or that she's not "being brave," telling her that is not going to help the situation. In fact, you are only making her feel less validated that her current situation is stressful, scary, and uninviting.
If your child doesn't feel supported in her feelings, she won't share them with you in the future.
Rather than criticizing her coping mechanism, compliment what she's doing that you like.
"I hear you. I'm sorry this is making you upset. I am impressed with your ability to hold still while you are still so upset. That is helping the nurse to continue doing her job. You are being a helper even though it's tough for you to do right now. I am proud of you."
Your child's response from language that is supportive, validating, and encouraging will likely be also positive.
You can imagine what her response would be if you told her to suck it up and to cut it out because she's "fine." (insert my huge eye-roll here!)
"You're fine," and "you're okay," are some of the least supportive and most frequently used phrases by parents and hospital staff.
They are the worst!
This is why...
No, your child is not fine.
Maybe the procedure she's experiencing isn't actually causing her any pain (if this is the case I'm sure the healthcare workers have told you this 10x over to reassure you), but she is feeling scared, stressed, and unsure about what's coming next.
"You're fine" is likely to encourage a response from your child that increases the volume and intensity of her cry.
A sign that she is not feeling supported.
If that's what you want, then go right ahead....
Tell her she's fine.
What's really happening?
She's trying to cope with everything going on around her and some tears does not mean that she's not a "brave" child (yes, remember she's a child and she's still learning how to manage her emotions!).
She's just working to understand her surroundings and process what's happening.
You understand and can predict MUCH more in these environments than she can.
She's taking all the information and stimulation in at a much quicker pace than you are since it's all new to her.
Coping looks different for everyone and even different in every situation.
One child may remain calm through an IV placement one day and then the very next week may be inconsolable.
Because every experience we have affects us, one event could change a child's ability to cope the next time around.
So allow your child to cry.
The more prepared you are to validate her feelings, help her get through the event with supportive language & possibly some distraction, your child's ability to manage her emotions will increase each time she faces a medical experience!
| Kara |