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Let your child help with therapy! Even the youngest may be able to offer a sip of water or clap for a first step taken. She can decorate a prosthetic with photos or add a personalized plate to a wheelchair: "Mom on Wheels!" By drawing colorful signs to label objects or illustrate short phrases, your child can help dad communicate or remember important words. Getting your child involved may ease her fears while helping her reconnect with the parent who is injured.

Once the service member is stable and starting the recovery process, new issues will arise. Help your child understand that this can be a long process. Say, "It's a long road, but we'll get through it, one step at a time."

Encourage your child to ask questions about the injury: "Does it hurt?" "Are you a robot with superpowers (in the case of a prosthetic device)?" "Will dad always have trouble talking or remembering things?" "Will a new leg grow back?" Show her how the prosthesis or wheelchair works. Most children are curious and adaptable. Take advantage of that quality! Your child may ask, "Is mom going to get better?" You can say, "Some very good doctors are working hard to help her get better. You're helping, too! It's going to take some time and some hard work, and we may need to learn to do some things a new way. But we'll all work together as a family."

Try to find a happy medium between protecting your child and acknowledging the difficult reality of what she is experiencing. "Yes, your dad is different, but he's still dad. He still loves you." Acknowledge what's changed, but also stress what's stayed the same. Remind your child: "We were a strong family before, and we'll be a strong family again. We'll all heal together."

Give your child a "kissing hand." Kiss the center of her palm and enfold it. Tell the child the kiss will stick, even when it's washed. When she puts her hand to her cheek, the kiss will spread love all through her body, reminding her she's loved — and that will never change.

Activities from PBS KIDS

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