When a parent has suffered an injury, there is so much to consider. Explaining the parent's injury to your children and discussing the changes it may cause in their lives will likely be high on your list. Once you've talked with your children, monitoring how they are handling the situation will be important. Since you can't be with your children at all moments of the day, enlisting the help of their day care providers and school officials can help you keep a pulse on the situation. Here are some topics that you may wish to cover when meeting with these key people.
Provide background information.
Provide teachers and day care providers with details on how the injury occurred, offering as much information as you feel necessary. Remember to provide enough for them to fully understand and empathize with your child. If some details are too personal, that's OK; you decide what to share and what to keep private.
Explain changes in the home life.
Give specifics about how this injury directly affects your child. For example, he or she may now be required to get up earlier or make other daily schedule changes due to your responsibilities changing. Perhaps the change will require you to seek out alternative after-school care, where your child will be adjusting to a new situation. Or, your son or daughter may simply be seeing the injured parent less often and missing him or her. Offering details about how your child's daily situation has changed will give others insight into what he or she is going through and will allow them to better understand and relate to your child.
Discuss how your child is reacting.
Provide school and day care employees with information regarding how your child has been responding to the news and changes so far. Give specific examples of any changes in behavior or mood that you have observed, and ask them to keep an eye out for these or other concerns. Establishing an open line of communication with all parties regarding your child's mood, behaviors and academic performance will ensure that he or she receives continual support in all settings. Reinforce that you are hoping for this team effort, that you value their input and support, and that your child needs all of you in order to successfully adjust to the changes.
Help them know how to respond.
Offer teachers and day care providers specific information on how you would like them to respond to your child's questions or changes in behavior. Provide proper terminology related to the injury, share how you are responding to any changes at home and lay out your expectations. With all adults on the same page, you're setting up a system of consistency and success for your child.
For more tips on helping children adjust to life with a wounded parent, visit the National Resource Directory. The National Resource Directory connects wounded warriors, service members, veterans, their families and caregivers with resources that support them at the national, state and local levels.
If you need further assistance with helping a child adjust to a service member's injury, reaching out and sharing your feelings and questions with a counselor can be very helpful. Military OneSource offers non-medical counseling services online, via telephone or face to face. Eligible individuals may receive sessions addressing issues requiring short-term attention at no cost. Visit Military OneSource or call 800-342-9647.