It’s difficult to explain traumatic brain injuries to children, as there are lots of different factors to think about. This doesn’t mean they should be sheltered though. Children want to feel involved, and it’s important to keep them in the loop by sharing information and encouraging them to ask questions and share their feelings. Involving children will help them come to terms with their loved one’s traumatic brain injury.
All children are different, and while some will adapt to the situation easily, others will find the drastic change of circumstances more difficult to deal with. In this blog, we’ll provide some tips for making sure that your children are not left in the dark when it comes to providing brain injury support.
When a family member is seriously injured, there will be a lot of information to take on board. But many children in families affected by TBI can feel ‘out of the loop’ - like their parents are holding back information. This can make them feel uninvolved and unimportant, or even forgotten about.
How much information do I share?
While children can easily feel uninvolved, being frank about the effects of a traumatic brain injury could be too distressing for them. Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer on how much information you should share with a child.
As the Children’s Trust recommends, it’s useful to take cues from your child - if they’re asking a question, then they are keen to know more. You should try to give as much information as you can to satisfy them at that time (making sure it’s age-appropriate). If you’re struggling to know what information is appropriate, Brainline has an in-depth guide on how children of different ages will react to brain injuries in the family.
It’s natural to worry about bombarding your children with what can seem like scary information - or knowing whether they are old enough to cope, but generally speaking, honesty is the best policy. If you don’t know the answer to their questions, say so, and perhaps suggest you can ask the doctor together when you next see them.
How do I approach telling them?
Telling your child serious news is difficult, and you may be worried about how to approach your children about a loved one’s brain injury. How you approach the conversation will depend on how old and mature your child is, and what you’ve decided to tell them.
It’s a good idea to have the conversation at a time when you’re not too tired, and you’re unlikely to be interrupted. It’s also a good idea to talk in a relaxed and neutral place (such as on a walk, or in the car) - this will make both yourself and your children feel comfortable.
The NSPCC has a general guide to help parents talk about difficult topics, and there are some good pointers here.
Make sure that your children feel like they can talk to you if they have any worries or questions – chances are they’ll have many!
Sometimes, they might be embarrassed by the new behaviour of their injured family member, and discussing why they’re behaving this way will teach them how to better explain it to others, and stop them from feeling anxious about speaking to friends about the situation.
If you need to adapt your home with specific aids and equipment, kids are likely to have a lot of questions. Walking them through the process will help both you and them to feel comfortable with this new arrangement.
Encourage them to talk about how they are feeling too. Sometimes talking to other family members can be helpful and will help them feel like they have a voice. Remember, there is no shame in feeling sad or worried; it’s completely natural to do so when a loved one has suffered a serious injury.
Set a good example by talking about how you’re feeling, as this can encourage them to open up and discuss their worries with you.
Maintain a good balance
As difficult as it may seem, try to maintain a degree of regularity with your children. Make sure they go to school on time and that their usual life is not interrupted any more than necessary. If they go to a swimming club on Monday evenings or Scouts on a Friday evening, try to stick to the same routine so their life is not sidelined.
Take an interest in what they have been doing that day, just as you normally would, so that they don’t feel ‘left out’.
Accepting help from other family members and friends will help you to maintain this balance. If someone offers to pick your children up from school so you are not rushing between appointments, take them up on it! Remember that you and your family need to live your lives too – it will actually help your injured loved one to adjust if a degree of normal family life is maintained.
How a specialist brain injury solicitor can help
If your loved one has suffered a TBI, there may be life-long care considerations to think about, and it’s important you have everything you need to support your whole family. Each family is unique, and children all adapt to new situations differently. But remember - you are not alone.
A good solicitor can help you with all the guidance and financial support you need on your loved one’s journey to recovery. This is not just a case of providing legal advice, but offering the help you need to fund the specialist care and home adaptations your family member deserves.
At CFG Law, we understand how stressful a brain injury can be for a family, and we have considerable experience helping clients in this situation. Our free guide ‘Find out what to do when a loved one has suffered a brain injury’ provides you with vital information on what to expect in those first few months, and how to adjust so you can live a happy and fulfilling family life.