Toddlers and accidents go hand in hand. Try all you want, go all out with the baby-proofing and still these things will happen. There is no escaping it. Sometimes even when we are right there with them, they end up getting hurt in ways you never knew was even possible! Luckily, a lot of times these accidents do not cause serious injuries, but they can be a lot to deal with all the same.
Our little one has had quite a few falls and bumps these last few months, and we have learnt the hard way about what happens, what to do (more importantly- what not to do) and how to cope with the guilt of it all.
So, when it happens and all hell breaks loose, we are usually on top of the physical aspect of it, but in our state of panic, we often forget about the THE PSYCHOLOGICAL ASPECT. To put it simply, we forget that even through all those tears and howls, your little one is learning, adapting and growing. (Yup, remember how they say parenting is a round-the-clock job! well, they meant it!)
So, here is what we found that we had forgotten about:-
- The child feeds on your emotions
Most of the times, kids reflect your emotions (If you panic, they panic) You must have noticed this in many other situations. So if you scream, not only are you going to scare everyone in a 5 km radius of your neighbourhood, but you are also going to scare the daylights out of your child, who will basically flip watching you flip. Though, what you really want is for them to calm down so that you can help them better.
- The child is conveying a need
Sometimes, kids ‘fake it’ or over-react to small mishaps. Our girl, sometimes (particularly when the adults around her are too busy in their conversations), would go tap a table and come to us holding up her palm with this expression which is just two seconds away from tears. Some people suggested that we ignore it,because then she forgets about it and moves on, if you respond then it becomes a habit.
Another way of looking at it is that when your child is going over-board with his response to the bruise, he is asking for your attention. In whatever complicated way it might be, they are still expressing a need. She knows if she comes to us with her palm like that she will get a kiss there, so basically all she wants is for a little comfort and reassurance, which is not really asking for too much!
- It is nobody’s fault
Nothing good ever comes from blaming yourself or being too hard on yourself, you are doing a bloody tough job, slips will happen. Not your fault. Babies are naturally programmed to be explorers, they do things the best they can and still fall or make mistakes sometimes. Not their fault. The Nanny is probably also doing his/her job sincerely. Not their fault either. (note: It is important you build this culture around the house, in order to ensure that your help/spouse are comfortable in approaching you when something goes wrong.). We go for the collective approach and focus on how we can avoid it in the future TOGETHER.
- Your child is still picking cues from you to understand what is happening
Remember, even through all those tears and chaos, you are still teaching your little one. How you react and address the situation will determine how your child understands the situation (not just presently, in the future too). If you overdo it, they are likely to get over focused on the pain of it, if you make fun of them, they are going to learn to keep it all in and not express their fear or pain. So, basically, you can’t switch off your parent-mode to get carried away.
What do we normally do, when a child hurts himself and cries out loud- DISTRACTION! We have done the distract your child till they forget routine. It always works, but only temporarily. In the long run, it is actually not a great approach. (Trust me, parenting was never about having it easy. EVER). Psychologists believe, that when your child is crying in pain, if you don’t acknowledge it, they think what they are feeling is invalid, and that can be very confusing for your child. It will be something like ‘ wow this hurts, but they think it is not a biggie, so what is it that I am feeling? This could sometimes lead to them not coming to you when they get hurt, and think they are supposed to act like nothing happened even if it hurts. You think that is growing up, but we feel it is better to teach them emotions, and that there is no shame in expressing them.
So after much deliberation, we narrowed down on these tips to handle toddler accidents and falls effectively:
- Stay calm and sound soothing. Someone is looking at you to play up on your response.
- Acknowledge, help and reassure; but on the whole play it down.
- Even if you are sure they are just doing it for attention, do give them your attention. But don’t reflect their emotion, address their need. Go for some show of love and comfort.
- Your child’s looking upto you for security. Be collected and available emotionally, to be able to help your child.
- If someone around you is feeling guilty about the accident, let them know you forgive them and that sometimes such things happen.
The real challenge is, to keep all of the above in mind and deal with the PHYSICAL ASPECT- which deserves another blog to itself. But you know what? If you train yourself slowly into following these pointers, you will really begin to see a difference.
I started writing this blog two days before lilM’s vaccination day. Today after her vaccination, I opted not to distract her to make her forget the pain altogether. I also kept telling her ‘I know, I know’ and backed that up with our usual comfort routine-soft pats, gentle rocking and some head kisses. She was actually back to herself surprisingly fast. We left the immunisation room with a smile, a flying kiss for the nurse who administered the shots and also a voluntary bye-bye wave. This has never happened before. She usually settles in the car ride back home.
So, we are pretty kicked about internalising these pointers into our routine. I think it is a true reflection of the kind of gentle parenting we’d like to practice with LilM. It is important that both parents agree on their approach to such situations. It helps to be in sync. Also because you can support and help each other through the difficult times and do what is best for the baby in a planned and efficient manner.
This is just our way of looking at it, you must surely be having a way of your own. Do Share your tricks and hacks with us!
Note: Consult a doctor if you find your child is behaving strangely after a fall. Especially with head injuries, it is best to get things looked up to be on the safer side.