Losing a limb is incredibly difficult at any age, but children who experience limb loss must grapple with these mental and physical challenges at an early age. If you have a child who is sent off to school or extracurricular activities, it can be scary for both parents and children. At Prime Care Orthotics & Prosthetics, we are here to assist you! We can help a child cope with limb loss while working with parents to navigate the healing process.
Difficulties Child Amputees Face
If you have a child with an amputation, here are only some effects you might experience.
If your child has lost a limb, the physical changes may feel overwhelming. Here are some physical changes and challenges to expect:
- Recovering from surgery.
- Regaining balance and coordination.
- Learning to navigate a prosthesis or other mobility aids such as crutches.
- Transitioning into normal activities.
Don’t overlook the emotional effects of amputation. Make sure that your child feels safe so they can ask questions. Topics of discussion may include:
- Sadness, worry, or fear.
- Timidness about returning to activities such as sports or going to school.
- Concerns regarding how siblings, family members, or peers will react to the change.
Always make sure to provide reassurance to your child and explain the amputation process so they are aware of what is happening or will happen to their bodies. You can also discuss the reason that it happened or will be happening.
Common Concerns Children with Prosthetics Have
Will It Hurt?
This can be a tough question to answer as everyone experiences different levels of pain. The answer is never clear-cut but rather a topic that you can continue to explore with your child. Ideally, you’ll use non-threatening developmentally appropriate words such as:
- “Poke” instead of “needle” or “shot”.
- “Pushing” instead of “pressure”.
- “Tingly” instead of “burn”.
- “Cold and tingly stickers” instead of “ESTIM pads”.
- Have discussions about muscles feeling “sore” and “tight” instead of “hurt” and “tired”.
You can always lead with something like “I wonder what we can do to make you feel better” to help encourage your child to work through a solution on their own.
I Am Scared
Every child reacts differently to the need for amputation. Your toddler’s reaction to limb differences may be different than someone who just turned 10. Being scared is a completely normal reaction but it’s important that you don’t dismiss how your child feels. Repressing their emotions will only make things worse in the future. Make sure to validate how they are feeling and use statements such as:
- I am here to help you.
- I understand that you are scared.
- Even if it is hard or scary, don’t give up.
This is one of the more challenging concerns to address with your child as you might be thinking the same thing; why did this have to happen to my child? Here are some essential takeaways that you can pass along to your child as they continue to work through this difficult situation:
- If they were born with a missing limb, it is not their fault.
- Everyone has a different body that is unique and beautiful in its way.
- Limb loss isn’t something that their friends can catch like a cold.
- Even though everyone experiences life differently, it’s still possible to play and have fun.
- Peer support is available through other children or mentors who have gone through similar experiences.
- Limb differences are only one facet of who your child is; show them how to be a hard worker, good friend, dancer, swimmer, etc.
- Personal goals, aspirations, and a sense of independence are completely possible with limb differences.
How to Help an Amputee Cope - Supporting Your Kid with Limb Difference
Prepare Yourself and Your Child
Regardless of age, how to tell a child about amputation isn’t exactly easy. How to prepare a child for amputation usually consists of having open and honest conversations. It’s going to be a significant adjustment for not only your child but for your entire support system. Don’t underestimate the importance of words of encouragement after amputation to reassure your child that everything will be okay.
In addition to the emotional and physical hurdles to overcome, there is the adjustment of learning how to use, care for, and maneuver the prosthetic device. Continue to reinforce that despite the challenges, life will continue and you will all adjust to a new normal together. Set a positive example with an upbeat attitude.
Education Is Key
In addition to proper limb and prosthesis care, you’ll want to focus on the educational aspect of the impact of this scenario. You’ll want to take the steps to educate your child, your family, teachers, caretakers, and your overall support system to help everyone better cope with your child’s limb loss. Explaining amputation to a child isn’t easy, but with the right attitude, you can do it.
Here are some tips to consider:
- Talk to your prosthetist about detailed instructions so you know how to care for the device.
- Practice putting on and removing the device.
- Help your child practice walking on different terrains and with real-world scenarios.
- If your child is in daycare or school, make sure to have discussions with the principal, teachers, etc. about special attention your child might need.
Talk Honestly with Your Kid
Amputation on a school-aged child is best approached with honesty. Coping with amputation and knowing what to say to a new amputee can be difficult, especially because bullying happens often in school settings. Even if your child’s school does its best to eliminate bullying, it’s ultimately out of the parents’ control.
It’s important to teach your child how to best deal with these questions or scenarios:
- Rather than using physical retaliation, your child should learn to lean on his or her words.
- It’s common for people to react poorly out of fear, so embolden your child to talk about what happened to them openly.
- Remind your child that not every child is against them and to always show kindness.
Get In Touch with Limb Loss Community
Child amputee support exists, and it’s something of which you should take advantage. For many families, outside support is essential to helping your child navigate this road. In addition to leaning on your friends and family for support during this transition, it’s important that you seek professional help from other groups such as the Amputee Coalition of America (ACA) or the Association of Children’s Prosthetic-Orthotic Clinics (ACPOC). There are likely local amputee support groups that your child can join. Consider purchasing children’s storybooks or coloring books that cover limb loss so they can better resonate with other characters.
Remember to Take Care of Yourself
Children amputee scenarios can take a toll on the entire family. It’s important that you are doing your best to take care of your child but also yourself. Always remember that your reactions and your attitude will set the tone for how your child interprets the situation.
If you are panicked, overwhelmed, and overly emotional, your child will pick up on this energy and mimic it. Instead, take the time to process your emotions in public and show a brave face to your child. This could mean finding solace with your spouse or a friend who can help talk you through how you’re feeling and give you the strength and support you need to navigate this scenario.
Make Sure Your Prosthetist Is Always In the Picture
Another integral part of helping a child cope with amputation is finding the right prosthetist to assist you in this transition. Professionals can play a large role in this adjustment period and your child will likely look up to them the most during this time. The right prosthetist can give your child all of the information they need as well as advice and success stories to encourage them.
Always remember that your prosthetist is more than someone who helps your child adjust to an artificial limb, but they are also there for moral and emotional support as they truly understand what your child is experiencing. They have seen and helped children who are in the same position as your child so they know how to help.
Raising a child with amputation is a beautiful process that will teach you many things about your child and yourself. Your child is unique and their prosthesis will become an extension of them. You can encourage them to add personalization to their prosthesis to make them their own. For example, you can add images of their favorite movie or cartoon characters to make them excited about wearing them. You can also have them select their color and design so they feel more involved in the process.
Despite its challenges, you will soon learn to embrace the beauty and positives that come with raising a child who has experienced limb loss. Our compassionate team at PrimeCare Prosthetics & Orthotics is here to help you through this transition and help you adjust to a new normal. If you’re looking for additional information or guidance or you’re ready to schedule an appointment, please contact us today!