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Guidelines for Parents When Their Child Is In The
Ronald C. Savage, Ed.D.
Your child has sustained an injury to his/her brain. The brain controls how we think and communicate, how we act and feel, and how we move about our world. The following tips may help you guide your child through the "confusion" that is common in the early stages of recovery.
1. Keep your child's environment simple, but interesting. Avoid overwhelming your child with too much information or stimulation. Too much is just as bad as too little.
2. Assure your child that s/he is safe and tell your child what has happened and where s/he is. For example, "You were in an accident, but you are going to be OK. You are in the hospital so the doctors and nurses can help you. Everything is going to be all right. Mom/Dad are here with you."
3. Assure your child several times a day that s/he is safe. Also, let your child know whether it is morning, afternoon, or evening so that your child can orient to time as well as place. Don't say that "it's six o'clock" or "half past three". Keep things simple.
4. Always let your child know who you are and who else is with you. When you speak touch or hold your child so that s/he will know where you are as well as who you are.
5. Help guide your child out of the confusion by doing the same things each time you are with him/her: assure them they are safe; tell them who you are; tell them about the time (morning, afternoon, evening); and something "special" (Grandmother is coming this afternoon; it is rainy outside; the Yankees won their game; your favorite show is on TV this evening, etc.).
6. Bring in your child's favorite toys, books, and music. Don't buy new things. You want to have your child with things s/he already knows. Have your child hold his/her favorite toy; read their favorite stories; play their favorite music. But remember to keep it simple. Stimulate your child, but do not overwhelm.
7. Avoid asking your child questions (Can you move your arm? Can you see me? Do you know where you are?). Rather tell your child these things. For example, "John, try moving your arm. Good!" or if your child's eyes are open tell him/her "I can see you, Mary! Your eyes are open." As before, let your child know what happened, where they are, and that they are safe.
8. Write a little story about your child and hang it over the bed so that his/her nurses and doctors will know your child as a "person" and what his/her likes and dislikes are.
No one can tell you how long it will take for your child to progress through the early stages of recovery. Unfortunately, children just don't "wake up from coma" like we see on TV or in the movies. As your child emerges from unconsciousness and starts being more responsive, you can help guide him/her through this confusing time by being calm and consistent, and, of course, loving.
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