Parenting

How to cope when your child is hurt

Thursday, April 01, 2010

You may remember when I first returned to Action News from maternity leave, I blogged about a very frightening time for my family when Sienna was just five weeks old. We spent two weeks in the hospital after Sienna spiked a fever and doctors said she had to be treated with intravenous antibiotics. Fortunately, Sienna made a full recovery and is now a happy, healthy, thriving 5-month-old.

However for weeks, even a few months after the hospital stay, it seemed my recovery from the incident was much slower. One of the nurses who treated Sienna, and whom we became very close with during Sienna's treatment, gave me this warning before we went home: "Please don't take her temperature every day, you'll drive yourself crazy and it's unhealthy for the both of you."

I tried very hard to put the incident behind us and move forward with our lives without feeling paralyzed by the fear that Sienna would get sick again. It was more of a challenge than I anticipated and I found myself doing things I promised myself (and others) I wouldn't do. I did take her temperature often, maybe not every day but certainly every other day. I was that terribly paranoid parent who got knots in my stomach if anyone tried to get within five feet of her, let alone touch her feet. Sienna started sleeping through the night, but I continued to get up three or four times to check on her. Yes, I had a monitor but that wasn't enough - I needed to physically into go in the room to make sure she was breathing well and not too hot, not too cold. I realize that many of these things are normal for new moms, but there's a difference between new mom jitters and a lingering anxiety that dominates your thoughts and feelings. It's a kind of stress that keeps you up a night even when the baby isn't.

Recently, there was a study conducted at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) found that one month after their child was injured 27 percent of parents experienced acute stress disorder or significant traumatic stress symptoms, including re-experiencing the incident, avoiding reminders of the incident, and increased general anxiety or jumpiness. Of those parents 15 percent displayed longer-term symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) more than six months after the initial injury.

As much as I worried about Sienna, I did know that I needed to start focusing more on myself and the emotional recovery from the incident. The study's lead author and of the behavioral science core at CHOP's Center for Injury Research and Prevention, Dr. Nancy Kassam-Adams said, "Research consistently shows the important role that parents play in a child's recovery. So, in addition to all the things parents do to help their child recover, it's very important that they also take good care of themselves."

Now Sienna wasn't technically "injured" but spending two weeks in the hospital with your 5 week old daughter and all the stresses and uncertainty associated with it, certainly add up to a traumatic experience.

There's a great site to help parents after their child is injured, but I think you can apply the advice and guidelines to any traumatic experience you may have with your child. It's called, www.AfterTheInjury.org.

The site provides some great tips so the entire family can heal together and start getting back to life as usual. Read more Parenting Perspective blogs by visiting the Parenting Channel on 6abc.com.

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parenting - erin o'hearn, parenting, erin o'hearn
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