How do we prepare kids to respond when something hurts? Compassion is the key. With love and care, talk about experiences that might cause pain in order to prepare kids for their feelings so that when something happens, they have the tools to work through it.
No matter how much we do to protect our children, there will inevitably come a time when they will experience some type of physical pain. We know that feeling pain is a normal part of being human, but how can we prepare ourselves and our children so that when pain occurs, both we and they are equipped to respond in a compassionate and healthy way?
It is helpful to prepare children ahead of time by talking about and normalizing experiences that will or may cause pain. You can brainstorm together about ways of responding to the situation so that when the time comes, they already have some tools for working through it.
“Sometimes, we will get hurt and feel sad. We might cry, and that’s ok because brave people cry, too, even adults! When we feel this way, what are some things we can do to help feel better?”
Again, prepare children ahead of time. If they are going into the hospital or a clinic for an injection or procedure, use age-appropriate language to explain to them what will happen when they are there. Acknowledge that it may hurt and then focus on the positives. Give them the chance to make a choice that gives them a sense of control in the situation.
“When we go into the hospital, the nurse will give you a little poke in your arm, and it might hurt a little. It will be over very quickly, and I will be with you the whole time. Do you want to bring your bunny or your teddy bear to hold when you’re getting your poke?”
After the fact, debrief what happened with your child and make sure to acknowledge how they felt while focusing on the positives.
“How did you feel when you got the poke? Yes, I could see that it hurt and you were sad. I also noticed that you only cried for one minute and that you got to choose a really fun sticker afterward. You were SO brave!”
It is best not to undermine feelings of pain or to tell children that something will not hurt when it likely will. This can lead to feelings of mistrust and will cause children to doubt your word about potentially painful experiences in the future.
Remember: the way that you as a parent respond to the pain of a child can have a large impact on how your child learns to feel about painful experiences. Using these tools will allow you and your child to move through these situations in a healthy way that acknowledges the feelings while allowing for growth.