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I think my child is suffering medical trauma: a parent asks

Dear Brooke,

I just read your article on restraints in medical procedures and trauma in children. My son was retrained as he needed his eyes flushed. I feel like a horrible failure of a mother for letting them. He was screaming and crying for me to stop them for the entire time. I thought he’d go blind if they didn’t do it. I explained all of this to him and he seemed okay later but I learned later they could’ve sedated him! I hadn’t known this was an option.

This was a couple of months ago. I want to do what I can to make sure the damage is minimal for him even though he doesn’t seem upset by it now and seems to understand why it was done. It was the most heartbreaking experience of my life and It was traumatizing for him. I’ve asked advice from a few behaviour specialists but they didn’t say much. Do you have any advice?

Melanie

Hi Melanie,

Firstly, I am so sorry that you and your son had to go through that. You are a great mother and I can see from your message that you always do your best. Parenting is tough and it should never be underestimated.

It sounds like you were a great support to your son when he was going through this experience. That is the main thing. When a child has to be restrained, the key is to have the right support and it sounds like you provided that to him.

So there are a few things you can do for him that might give you some insight into what is going on inside him… if there is anything! Remember, trauma is in the eye of the beholder- one person may find a situation very traumatic while another may wonder why the other person is so upset by it all.

Start playing!

You can set up a play listening scenario around getting your eyes washed out. Let him put you in the vulnerable position and him in the place of power (the person washing your eyes out). Follow his lead- if he isn’t into the play, don’t push it BUT this is a good way to determine if he has any hang ups over it or any misconceptions about the experience. If you identify any misconceptions, you can easily put it straight for him. e.g. ‘Oh no honey, I don’t remember it that way, this is what they did…’

Stay Listen

If he begins to cry or have a meltdown, stay and listen to him. Provide the shoulder to cry on and offer empathy. The aim here is to help him release tension through crying or re-enacting fighting. I highly recommend the parent starter class through Hand in Hand Parenting to help you on your way here.

Play Therapy for medical trauma

If you notice signs of anxiety- regression, renewed separation anxiety to name a few (there are lots)- then I would also recommend you seek out a Play Therapist. Play Therapy is a very gentle form of counselling. It is a common belief in the Play Therapy world that trauma CAN be caused from medical procedures so chances are you won’t have to convince your therapist there MAY be a problem.

I love play therapy as it really can transform a child and help them find their place in life. It was Larissa, the girl in my post about restraints, that inspired me to go on and formally train in play therapy because I could not refer her to anyone in my hometown!

Thank you for getting in touch with me. I hope that this helps you in your journey with your son. Just remember, you are enough for your son. Trauma can be healed. It isn’t all lost.

If you would like to know more about how you can support a child through injections and avoid causing long term trauma, be sure to check out my new eBook. It can make a huge difference for you and your child.

Until next time…

P.S. To join other parents looking for answers, don’t forget to join our FREE Facebook group!