Bumps and bruises are a part of childhood, no matter how hard you try. Although no parent wants their child in pain, it’s essential to teach children early about pain so they can better understand and react to it later.
A new University of South Australia study has identified five key strategies caregivers and parents can use to talk with children about their ‘everyday pain.’ It can help them recover and be resilient after an injury.
Chronic pain is a significant topic of public health in Australia. It affects as many as one-fourth of children and as many adults as one-fifth of adults.
This study examined ‘everyday pains’ in children aged 2-7. Researchers consulted psychologists, child health and development experts, parents, and educators to discover what would help children recover from minor injuries or pains.
The most important messages were to be heard by 80 per cent of all experts.
- Teach children the meaning of pain. Pain is our body’s alarm system.
- Accept children’s pain. Make sure they feel heard, safe, and protected. But don’t fuss.
- After an injury, comfort children. Let them know that the body will heal and that they will soon feel better.
- Encourage children to express their emotions, but also encourage them to control.
- Encourage children to be involved in their recovery. Get a bandaid.
UniSA’s Dr Sarah Wallwork is the lead researcher and says that parents and caregivers play an essential role in teaching children about pain.
Children need to learn that pain is the body’s alarm system and that it protects us. However, it’s equally important that they understand that injury and pain are not always in sync.
“As adults, one the most significant pain management problems is our ingrained beliefs about pain and recovery. We believe that pain follows an injury. Research shows the opposite.
“Emotions can influence pain in children. Fear, hunger, and tiredness, for example, can all exacerbate symptoms even though it is not pain.
“Teaching children to have some control over their pain – and that their inner feelings can affect this – empowers them with pain management.
It can also be appropriate for the age group. For a young child, empowerment could be as simple as applying a bandaid or wet cloth to the injury and telling them that the bandaid protects them and that they can go on with their day. The process may be more complicated for older children.
“The key is to show that the child is the healer and that they are actively involved in the healing process.
“By teaching children about pain early, we hope to encourage lifelong ‘helpful pain behaviours that will actively encourage recovery.