How to help children better manage pain

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A study of University of South Australia has identified five approaches that parents and caregivers can use when talking to young children about everyday pain, and that can help their recovery and resilience after injury.

Bumps and bruises are an unavoidable part of childhood. But while no parent wants their child to be in pain, teaching children about pain when they’re young can help them better understand and respond to pain when they’re older.

In this study, published in the scientific journal ‘European Journal of Pain’researchers studied pain in young children (ages 2 to 7 years) and asked experts in child health, psychology, development, and resilience, as well as parents and educators, what they thought might promote recovery and resilience in children. children after minor pain or injury.

With 80 percent consensus among all experts, the most important messages were, first, teach children the meaning of pain, “our body’s alarm system”. In the second instance, they urged to validate the children’s pain, making sure that “they feel safe, listened to and protected, but without making a scandal.”

Likewise, they advise reassuring children after an injury, letting them know that their body will heal and the pain will pass. Also support children’s emotions, letting them express themselves, but encouraging them to regulate them. Finally, they urge children to be involved in their recovery: encourage them to manage pain (for example, putting a Band-Aid on them).

“Whether falling off a bike or facing the oft-dreaded vaccinations, everyday experiences of pain are opportunities for parents to promote positive beliefs and behaviors related to pain. Although it is important to teach children that pain is our body’s alarm system and that it’s there to protect us, it’s equally important to understand that pain and injury don’t always line up,” said Sarah Wallwork, lead researcher on the paper.

For the doctor, the key is to demonstrate that “the child is the one who is cured and that he actively participates in the process.” “By helping children learn about pain when they are young, we hope to promote lifelong ‘helpful’ pain behaviors that actively promote recovery and prevent future pain problems,” she added.