Young children spend so
much time running, climbing, and jumping that minor injuries are
inevitable. Sometimes a child is so absorbed in play that she
ignores her scrapes and goes right back to her game, perhaps after
yelling, “You bumped me, you stupid chair.” At other times,
especially when she’s tired, she may cry for a long time after a
A child’s reaction to an injury often depends on who’s around her.
Since she feels most comfortable expressing her feelings to her
parents, she might cry or complain more about a fall when they’re
with her. Many parents have seen their child fall, get up looking
unhurt, and then start crying as soon as she sees them. A child
cries like this because she wants to be comforted. If her parents
are not close by, she may comfort herself or seek help from another
child or adult. Adults react the same way to their own injuries:
when an adult bumps into something at home where he’s comfortable,
he’ll express his pain, but if he hurts himself away from home, he’s
likely to hide his discomfort.
The way a child reacts to a fall also depends on her age. A very
young child is much more likely than a four- or five-year-old to cry
after a minor injury. One five-year-old told her friend, “Just don’t
think about your cut and it won’t hurt anymore.”
Many children want Band-Aids for every scrape and bruise. Band- Aids
seem magical to a young child because she believes that once small
cuts are covered up, they’re gone. Parents can make Band-Aids easily
accessible and should let their child wear one whenever she thinks
she needs it, even if she just wants to cover an old scab she’s
rediscovered—the comfort is worth the small expense.
Just as children react in different ways to injuries, so do parents.
Some minimize their child’s pain and say, “You’re OK. Stop crying.”
Others offer to rub or kiss the sore spot. Certainly children need
comfort when they’re upset after a fall, and they need to know their
parents understand: “Yes, I know it really hurts when you scrape
your knee.” But children get hurt so frequently that it can be hard
for parents constantly to comfort and reassure. Yet, some young
children seem to need attention for each new cut, bump, or bruise.
Parents should try not to overreact to their child’s injuries. Some
parents, who usually realize they’re overreacting but have trouble
con trolling their impulses, rush to their child after a fall,
anxiously asking, and "Are you all right?" When a child sees her
parents looking so concerned, she may start to cry simply because
she thinks something must be wrong. If parents continually
overreact, she may eventually feel that she’s incapable of making
herself feel better, and that she should seek help for even minor
Some parents are very uncomfortable seeing their son cry after a
fall. They may tell him, “You’re a big boy, you can handle it. It’s
only a little cut.” Even now, there are parents who think it’s all
right for girls, but not for boys, to cry. Parents should remember
that young children of both sexes sometimes need comfort and
sometimes need to handle minor injuries on their own.
When you watch your child playing, you probably warn her about
dangerous situations: “Don’t climb up there or you’ll fall!” If she
climbs and falls anyway, you may have a hard time being sympathetic.
It’s tempting to say, “I told you you’d get hurt if you played like
that,” but if your child is in need of comfort, she will feel
rejected by such a statement and not understand the safety message
you intend. In such a situation, you should pay attention to her
pain while also telling her that what she did was unsafe.
On rare occasions, your child’s injury may be serious enough for a
trip to the doctor or the hospital. A serious accident is always
frightening for parents and children, especially if there’s a great
deal of rush and concern. If your child needs special treatment,
reassure her: “I know your arm hurts and I’m going to see what we
can do to make you feel better. That’s why we’re going to the
Try to remain calm and explain (or ask the doctors or nurses to
explain) the medical procedures to your child. Let her know if she
will be put on a stretcher or in a papoose, and if a particular
procedure will be painful. You and she may not be able to avoid pain
and unpleasantness in this situation, but you can be there to help
her and go with her to the treatment room if permitted.
It’s always hard to see your child in pain after a serious accident,
and you might feel better if you bring someone along to help and com
fort you—a friend, neighbor, or relative. As one mother said after
her daughter received stitches, “I hear about this happening to
other children, but it’s very different when it happens to your