Scarring is an incredibly complex and multi-layered topic. Even when the physical pain has long gone, the remaining scars can last much, much longer and cause as much emotional pain and the physical. When a child is scarred, things take on another level of complexity and, for the parent or carer, it can all get to be a little bit too much as they deal with their own feelings as well as trying to help their child.
Children with visible scars touch our hearts: we just want to reach out to them and somehow magically peel off the damaged tissue. But, as the condition is so noticeable, our sympathetic feelings are directed exclusively at the child, quite forgetting the quietly dedicated parents/family members/carers who deal with all the issues you DON’T see, such as emotional trauma.
So, this article is for YOU, the person who looks after a scarred child. We understand that any caregiver feels the pain of the child in their care just as acutely as if they had to bear the scars as well. Perhaps more so because, as the adult, you’ve got to be the one to look up to, to ask for knowledge, to say that everything will be OK even when you feel like screaming. That role isn’t an easy one: here is some advice that may help you when talking to your child about their scarring,, and might make things a little less painful and unclear for you as well.
The number-one keyword is communication, and remember that this involves talking and listening. Make it clear that you’ll each spend time doing both, so you can really learn from each other. Get right away from distractions if you can. Don’t pressure the child to talk but always be ready to engage in conversation; this is crucial for both of you.
Children have less control of their emotions than adults and this can be a good thing; as they are more likely to give voice to potentially upsetting and shocking but often also profound things about their feelings. The world of imagination and play is much closer and more accessible to children than to adults and you can often discover a great deal about your child by engaging in their favourite type of activity, e.g singing, acting, telling stories, drawing pictures.
Dealing with stares is often a tricky issue but one that is likely to occur with a visibly-scarred child. Each situation needs careful judgement and should be taken individually but the key here is confidence. Every one of us has been guilty of looking at someone for longer than is socially acceptable due to some quirk of their appearance and we often do a ‘double-take’ or stare at an interesting person without even realising.
So, break that tension with a smile when you make eye contact. 9 times out of 10, you’ll get a smile back and make a connection. This confidence, calmness and refusal to make a big thing of it will make a lasting impression on your child; they learn by copying and your behaviour will become second nature to them. For the 1 in 10 who continues to stare, you should tell them firmly not to do so as it makes you uncomfortable.
Other young children sometimes literally cannot help but stare; that’s the average child’s lack of emotional control again. Naturally curious, they will want to understand anything new to them and there’s nothing wrong with that. Here, the adults will dictate how the situation pans out; children are generally far more able (and willing) than adults to forget one-another’s unimportant surface differences and get down to the really important stuff, such as whose turn it is to play a computer game and a discussion on why adults are so SERIOUS all the time!
For all your child needs to deal with their scars, they will look to you to provide it. We want to be here so you have got someone to look to as well. Give us a call if you need any support.