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Columbus, Ohio
USA

Blog

Why injury? It's this simple: more children die from injuries every year than from the next three leading causes of death combined. Nobody knows this because no one is talking about it. In the U.S., one child dies every hour from an injury that could have been prevented. Around the world, a child dies every 30 seconds as the result of an injury. You don’t need to have a child to know that we can do better.

 

It's the Trying That Counts

Guest Blogger

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When I was young, I remember hearing the terrible, terrifying screech and boom of a car crash. My mother jumped up and ran outside, yelling at my sister and me to stay inside. We rushed to the window, where we saw a mangled heap of metal in our yard and a truck with a smashed hood in the ditch across the street. A neighbor called the police department (this was pre-911 in my rural hometown), and soon the ambulance and fire trucks arrived. Later I found out that the car’s driver was killed while the truck’s driver walked away. I can’t even remember who or what was at fault, but that sound and the sickening feeling of death have stuck with me after nearly three decades.

Injuries have an effect on more than just the people involved. Grief, confusion, and fear are natural reactions even for bystanders, and not knowing how to handle those emotions can be hard for kids. When I saw that car crash, I can remember not understanding why I felt so sad when someone I didn’t even know was killed by something that seemed “accidental.” It didn’t seem fair; it was confusing.

To her credit, my mother handled that crash very well. She sat us down and asked if we had questions, which, of course, I did. When I said that it wasn’t fair that someone died because of someone else’s behavior, she explained that sometimes, we can’t control the actions of others and sometimes those actions might hurt us. Even when we do our best to make good decisions, life just isn’t fair—but that’s no reason to stop trying to be the best we can be. I had a hard time understanding that concept as a kid, and I sometimes I struggle to accept that as an adult, too.

I wonder how my mother would have responded had it just been my sister at home. Unlike me, who wears my emotions on my sleeve, my sister is much more reserved. She wasn’t visibly upset—as far as I remember—but now I wonder whether she needed to hear the same things I did about that crash to help her process the emotions that were probably similar to my own. Not everyone will show how she feels like I did, but kids can be deeply affected even if they have no obvious connection to the person who was injured. This experience taught me to check in with my kids if an injury or death happens instead of assuming that they are okay.

When something tragic but preventable happens, kids need a loving adult to try to explain what’s going on, tell them that it’s okay to feel the way they do, and help them find ways to understand and cope. None of us have all the answers, but check in anyway. Just as my mother explained to my sister and me on that day, it’s the trying that really counts.

If you’re having trouble talking to your kids about difficult subjects like death or an injury (both their own or another person’s), there are many resources available that might help. A few are listed below. You may also want to ask your pediatrician for advice.

https://www.aftertheinjury.org/

http://www.healthychildren.org/english/healthy-living/emotional-wellness/Pages/default.aspx

http://www.fredrogers.org/parents/special-challenges/death.php

http://www.cc.nih.gov/ccc/patient_education/pepubs/childeath.pdf

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