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Invisible Injuries

Michael Martin

Invisible injuries are the hardest injuries for children to understand. Why does a parent seem angry? Or sad? Why does he forget things or just seem "out of it"? It's crucial to find a way to explain these changes to your children in ways they can understand.

You can explain that sometimes injuries are invisible, the way a stomachache is: The hurt is inside. When you look at the person, you can't see the hurt inside, but it is there. Help your child understand that the injury may change the way his injured parent feels, talks and acts. Everything from forgetfulness to anger and frustration to sleepiness can be symptoms of this invisible injury.

Praise your child's strength, bravery, and helpfulness, but let him express his fears, too.

You may also need to explain a parent's immobility or nonresponsiveness: "The doctors want dad to rest," or "This medicine helps dad get well, but it also makes him sleepy."

Validate your child's confusion, and make sure that he knows he is not to blame. For example, you can say, "I know mom isn't smiling as much, but she still loves you."

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