What to Say When a Loved One is Wounded: Coaching Kids to Talk to Their Peers

When a loved one is wounded, it can be hard enough for children to accept, but it can be especially difficult to talk about with their friends. Keeping open lines of communication at home is key. Kids' actions and reactions may mirror those of the adults around them, so establishing a level of comfort surrounding the injury and the changes it brings is important. Some children may be more naturally at ease answering questions about their loved one's injury, but others may need some help deciding how to respond. There are many things that adults can do that may help children more easily address questions from their peers.

It's OK to talk about the injury.

Creating a culture within the home that assures children that talking about the injury is not taboo can make expressing their feelings, questions and concerns easier. However, it's important to respect the wishes of the wounded loved one as well, so having another adult offer time to talk away from home may be more suitable. Regardless of whom the adult is, having someone that children can talk freely with can ease their stress.

Educate children about the injury.

Educating children about an injury can provide a level of comfort. Having the knowledge to answer questions that are presented can be empowering and raise confidence levels surrounding the situation. Teach age-appropriate information including proper medical terminology and information regarding any equipment that the injury requires.

Practice answering questions that may come up.

Explaining to children that others will naturally be curious about the changes within their family and that asking questions is natural may help them feel less targeted when questions arise. Think of several questions that may come up regarding the loved one's specific situation and create age-appropriate answers for children. Take these questions and have a role playing session with each child, offering them solutions for common questions that they may face. Having a mental file of responses to pull from can increase a child's confidence when among peers. Remind children that they only have to share what they feel comfortable with in any situation. Let them know that it's OK to state that they don't feel like talking about it.

Focus on the person.

Remembering to continue to focus on the loved one and not simply their injury can comfort children and offer another talking point. If a parent still does many of the same things he or she used to, children can convey that to their peers. Letting friends know that he or she may have suffered an injury but still offers assistance with homework and plays games just like other parents can help keep the focus on the positive, shifting some of the focus away from the injury.
For more tips on talking to children about a wounded warrior, 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 talking to a child about 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.


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