Tragedy and triumph for child and parent
From bruises and scrapes to broken bones at play to diseases to wreck injuries to shock revelations, tragedies are part of our having children and being involved with them. To be a parent is to face risks.
Most of these tragedies are minor, forgotten by everyone a few hours or days later. But not ever forgotten are the weeks in a hospital with chemo or radiation for a childhood cancer, nor is surgery and careful monitoring of a child’s behavior after childhood surgery. You and your child can prepare ahead. Discuss your child's feelings, expectations, worries, and fears before surgery or other hospital stays. And think about your own. Unless it is an emergency many hospitals let parents and child see the hospital facilities and meet staff ahead of time to help the child feel more relaxed and comfortable.
Some parents claim that almost dictatorial control of their children when young will protect them from risk of tragedy. But many of these horrors cannot be prevented by being overly protective. Being overly protective sometimes increases the risk, for the child has not been involved with parents in give-and-take talking and preparation for how to face risks.
We parents, caregivers, partners can be very alert in searching out dangers in our homes and yards — matches, lighters, flammable materials, dangerous chemicals — to be certain younger children cannot get to them. To see how safe the rooms of your home are when inquisitive, exploring children are probing sit on the floor to get their angle. If a skate board is available, sit on it to roll around rooms probing as a child would. Perhaps your partner can list dangers, so you have a check list to eliminate dangers.
We can test to be sure smoke detectors are active.
Consider some risks and how we care givers can prepare for and prevent tragedies.
Children want to play actively. They want to play sandlot sports and they want to play in organized leagues. We have many pleasant memories of our son’s baseball and our daughter’s basketball and track competition. We knew there were risks and dangers that no coach or manager or player could prevent. Even with prior medical examinations clearing a child to play, some are injured, some seriously, and a few fatally.
When our children start riding bikes or scooters or driving autos or riding with others, they risk wreck injuries, and the possibility of fatal consequences.
How many parents recall with awful surprise and horror when a teen told of an unplanned pregnancy?
For some parents having their own child say he or she is gay or lesbian is a body blow. Some parents cannot accept this revelation, while others wisely say and feel, this is my child. Read more about this emotional problem. An organization called PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) helps many of these parents, and has support groups in many cities.
Our children may be caught by the criminal justice system. Your options are often limited, unless you can afford legal help with the proper expertise.
The worst of all tragedies is death. Seldom are we prepared for the horror, the decisions, the complexities, the finality. States have forms so we deputize a decison maker, and a form we can use if we wish to prevent being kept on life support when there is no hope.
At a different level are the personal tragedies of a boy friend or girl friend breaking up with our child, leaving our teen devastated.
List possible responses to this youngster. Include in your list how to avoid denial, which denies the heartbreak. Think of how many ways you can talk with this youngster about feelings and ways to respond. How can you best show empathy?
Here are a few areas for parents to think through.
Another aspect of medical prevention is diet and exercise. Many of us have measured inches and feet on a door facing and noted the height of children at birth dates. Perhaps add the best weight beside those inch marks. The best exercise is by the family. When parents exercise regularly, and involve their children with them, disciplines are developing. When preparing meals or eating snacks conversation can probe into nutrition labels on foods and what they mean, and the consequences or effects that follow.
Do not preach, but use the skills of communication, I-messages, and give-and-take conversation. List specific ways to drive defensively, asking the child to suggest some specifics, then demonstrate or practice them.
In the year before your child starts to drive, chat with your child as you drive about these practices. With care when your child is in cars or on bikes, she will use seat belts and helmets, because they are your child's own inner disciplines. Our young son on getting into the car often said, "Uckle buck."
Diseases and wrecks cause profound injuries that may effect the child for the rest of life. Sometimes death is the result — long, slow, excruciating; and sometimes so sudden. How can we now prepare ourselves and our child for this part of life? For life always involves risk and injury and death. A few steps you can take include:
Let me close with a simile. We buy insurance not to prevent tragedies, but to provide the means to rebuild our cars, homes, and lives. In the same way we can prepare ourselves for possible tragedies, hoping they never happen, but better able to cope in healthy and positive ways.
Copyright © 2002 John F. Yeaman