Issues that arise after an accident or a fall

School Psychologist & Therapist Maggie Kline, LMFT, shares advice for parents on how to help and comfort your child who is shaken up after an accident or fall
Pediatric First Aid - Helping Your Child After An Accident or Fall
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Issues that arise after an accident or a fall

If a child has an accident or a fall, very often of there’s no medical emergency, like the child doesn't need stitches, the child can be very frightened in a way that a parent might not necessarily be frightened. Especially if it’s their very first fall, like off of the bed or a tumble in the back, falling backwards out of a high chair, can be extremely frightening to a child. So what the parent can do is first of all, hold the child in a way where they feel secure but not too tight, and let the child know that they were really frightened and then it’s over. It’s very easy for parents of young children to feel the spine and to feel if the child is braising from the spine or relaxed. You can say to the child, “Boy that was really scary! It’s a good thing that it’s over.” Usually then the child will relax and start to cry. Crying is a wonderful sign, it’s a crying of release; because it means that the nervous system is starting to settle down and feel safe. The child doesn't so much cry when they’re wound up, they actually cry when they’re winding down and releasing. So they could say, “Yes, that’s right, it’s over. I’m right here with you and you can let all those tears up” because that’s what lets the stress go out of your body. And just stay with the child until you notice his color comes back, and the child’s breath comes back and they might do a little shiver and then they come back to how they were before it happened. What might happen is it may not be completely over for them. You want to re-introduce the child to what it was that frightened them. So if they fell out of the high chair or out of a car seat, you, might want to approach that with them and have them look at it and notice if they’re braising or if they’re relaxed. If they’re relaxed and they go right to it, we know it’s over. If they say something like, “No, I don’t want to go in the high chair” then you know it’s not over. What you want to do is again say, “I know that fall was really frightening to you, I can tell you don’t want to go in the high chair, so how about if I just put my hand on your back and we just take a little time to notice what happens when you get close to the high chair.” The child may say, “I’m really afraid” and they might even run out of the room; that’s okay, let them run out of the room. Then they come back, and you say, “I wonder if you would just walk over and touch the high chair, and we’ll see how stable it is.” Little by little, they might stiffen again, say, “I’m going to put my hand on your back until you can relax again. I made sure that the high chair is stable this time, it won’t happen again.” They may shake and tremble and cry a little bit more in release. So you want to little by little re-introduce them until they feel comfortable, and not force them to go right back into the situation that frightened them.

School Psychologist & Therapist Maggie Kline, LMFT, shares advice for parents on how to help and comfort your child who is shaken up after an accident or fall


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Maggie Kline, LMFT

School Psychologist & Therapist

Maggie Kline has been a marriage, family, and child therapist for almost 30 years, and is a retired school psychologist.  After beginning her professional career as a teacher in 1970, Maggie has continued to garner vast experience with children of all ages from pre-schoolers through teens. She uses Somatic Experiencing (SE) with individuals, couples and families in psychotherapy. She also integrates SE with art, dream work and play when helping youngsters recover from trauma. Maggie is a senior faculty member for the SE Trauma Institute, currently teaching on five continents. She has co-authored two books (listed below) with Peter A. Levine which have been translated into 11 languages,  and has also written "It Won't Hurt Forever", which was published in Mothering  Magazine in 2002.  Most recently, Maggie has originated two seminars for professionals who help traumatized children:  "SE for Kids, A Games-Based Approach" and "Conscious Connections, Providing Reparative Opportunities for Healthy Attachment". She has presented her work in schools and agencies, at conferences, and in mass disaster settings such as the Southeast Asian Tsunami and the Oslo Massacre.

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