When Your Child is Seriously Injured: The emotional impact on families

When Your Child is Seriously Injured: The emotional impact on families

Marilyn Lash, M.S.W.
The early days and weeks after a child has a traumatic brain injury are very stressful for parents and families. This booklet on the emotional trauma of families is based on experiences and suggestions of families with children who have brain, spinal cord or other traumatic injuries. It includes tips for coping with the hospital stay, understanding the meaning of loss, helping sibilings, getting hlep and preparing for the child's discharge from the hospital. It is ideal for families with a child in the intensive care unit (ICU), pediatric hospital or trauma unit.
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Full Description

The emotional impact on families following a traumatic brain injury. Families with children who have had traumatic injuries commonly praise the medical advances and care that literally saved their child’s life in many cases. These families were, however, more critical of the recognition and attention given to their emotional needs while their child was in the hospital.

This booklet was written to address the emotional trauma that inevitably accompanies the physical injury. The content is based on interviews and focus groups with families who shared their experiences and provide strategies to help other families cope during the early days and weeks following a child’s traumatic injury.

This booklet is ideal for nurses, social workers and clinicians to give to families while their child is hospitalized. It will help parents understand their emotions, learn how to comfort their child, give assurance to siblings, ask for help from friends and relatives, and recognize coping styles of partners or spouses. There are also suggestions to help parents plan for their child’s discharge, examples of journal writing and contact information worksheets.

ISBN# 1-93111718-7
Pages 44 pages, 5½ x 8½ softcover
Year 2006 ~ 3rd edition


Marilyn Lash, M.S.W.

Using her social work experience and research in pediatric rehabilitation to develop sensitive and practical guides for families, educators, and professionals, her specialty is helping families cope with the emotional impact of brain injury and developing strategies for negotiating the complex service system.  Now a Founding Partner and President of Lash and Associates Publishing/Training Inc, she focuses on developing user friendly publications for families, educators, and clinicians.

Ms Lash is Chair of the North Carolina Statewide Brain Injury Counci and past Chairperson of Board of Directors for the Brain Injury Association of North Carolina.

In Appreciation

The first edition of this booklet was developed in 1990 by the Research and Training Center in Rehabilitation and Childhood Trauma at New England Medical Center and Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, MA. Staff of the Kiwanis Pediatric Trauma Institute were instrumental in identifying issues and concerns of parents, as well as strategies for addressing their needs.

Special thanks are due the parents of injured children who spent many hours in meetings and interviews with the author. Their experiences and suggestions shaped the content of this booklet. They were incredibly open and willing to share their feelings, recall painful memories, and give suggestions to help other families. Their assistance is deeply appreciated. They are the real authors of this booklet. Thanks are also given to the children who drew pictures to illustrate this booklet.

Some of these families have children whose injuries affected their physical abilities such as walking, breathing, seeing or hearing. Others have children with changes in their abilities to think, learn or communicate. Some families were interviewed as soon as several weeks after their child’s injury. Others talked about their experiences many years later. Summarizing all their information and experiences was the difficult part of writing this booklet.

There are many causes and consequences of injuries. Every family is affected by their child’s injury differently. Each family reacts uniquely. However, conversations with families revealed many of the same concerns, thoughts, reactions and suggestions. They are the basis of this booklet.


In Appreciation

Chapter 1 The Hospital Stay

Chapter 2 Loss and What it Means

Chapter 3 Helping Brothers and Sisters

Chapter 4 Getting Help and Coping

Chapter 5 Planning for Discharge


Bill of Rights for Parents

Samples of Family Journal


Contact Information Workheets


The Hospital Stay Families are unprepared for serious traumatic injuries. During the early stage of hospital care, their child’s medical condition is the immediate concern of families. There may even be fears about whether their child will survive, need surgery, or become disabled. Traumatic injuries have more than just a physical impact. There is also an emotional shock for the entire family and for all those close to the child who has been injured.

Helping your child

Many parents remember how the injury occurred in vivid detail. Others recall only a nightmarish blur of events. Some replay the telephone call from the police or doctor. Others can’t forget the frantic trip to the emergency department and the shock and relief of first seeing their child. Many recall the agonizing uncertainty and fear as they waited to hear about test results and the many consultations with specialists. Explanations of what was being done were reassuring but often confusing with new medical terms and an array of equipment and tests.

I thought the waiting would never end.

This period is often described by parents as a terrible time as they waited for…

  • the doctor’s explanation
  • test results
  • a diagnosis

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