Little 5 year old Lyla approaches me cry, “Mr. Tim, can I tell you something?” “Yes Lyla, whats the matter?” “That kid over there hurt me.” “What Happened?” “We were running and he made me fall.” “Do you think he did it on purpose? “No.” “Ok well then get back to jogging.” “But my finger hurts so bad.” “Did you know Lyla, that I hurt my finger really bad once when it got caught in a door?” “No.” “Here let me show you the scar.” Lyla stops crying. “Ya it hurt pretty bad…”; (I explain full story). “Yep, got 4 stitches; whats your favorite warm up?” Lyla cheerfully chirps, “Zombie Crawls”! “Ok lets do Zombie Crawls; everybody, Zombie Crawls!” In this article, “Cuts, Collisions, Crying: Tips for Your Kids Program”, I will explain how I handle children who are “distraught” over an injury.
Cuts, Collisions, Crying: Tips for Your Kids Program
Know Your Kids
Knowing your enemy is the first step in gaining the upper hand to defeat them. Obviously our children in our programs are not our enemies. However, overcoming their distress is. To use the technique I will explain you must know and understand your children. In my previous articles Kung Fu Kids: Keeping your Kids Engaged and Lakeland Afterschool and Summer Camp Fun I briefly mention a few ways to engage your children but also how to connect with them. Listening to them and not just treating them like a “little kid that is misbehaving” is a big key. When I speak to them if there was a fight or bad behavior I help them rise to the occasion. I tell them they need to speak to me like an adult. I help them calm their emotions. If they are excited or crying I explain to them I can’t understand what they are saying. Doing this usually helps them focus in on me and speak clearly.
By doing so I have seen an increase in respect when it is my turn to say something. By listening to them and explaining to them they must speak to me clearly they know that I am listening. This gains their trust as I watch and learn how they think and communicate. Once problem at a time I gain a little more insight into the differences that each child has. Once I know how their brain works, what they like, dislike, etc., I can now employ one of my favorite techniques when they are overreacting to an injury…distraction and redirection.
The Art of Distraction and Redirection
When a child is hurt their emotional flux tends to be more dramatic then the pain actually calls for. This is typically rooted in the base need for attention to have someone help with the problem. As they grow however, they need to learn that crying is not the best way to get help. But by clearing communicating with an adult. This is not automatically learned however, it must be taught. There is a hurdle when it comes to teaching this though. That hurdle is that emotional wave mentioned earlier. When their emotions are high, it is near impossible to teach them anything let alone communicate. Distraction is the key to breaking that emotional wall you will encounter.
One of the best ways I have found to “distract” the child is connect with them by referring to one of your own injuries. Shifting the focus off of something requires something new to focus on. By relating to them with your own injury they will tend to perk up to hear the story. They want to know what happened to Mr. Tim and his finger and how he got that scar. Once the wave has been calmed by interesting anecdote, their attention must be moved forward or they will relapse into the “pain” which was mostly in their mind.
Redirection is the next key. By moving their focus on something positive, something they enjoy (preferably within the activity being done) their carefree mind will happily get distracted by the next thing. In the story I gave Lyla the option to pick the next warm up. Turns her brain completely away from her finger to “ooo, I get to pick the next one, which one do I like”. Once this is done they usually go about the day without remembering their finger at all.
Know your children. Distract them when emotions are high. Then redirect them on to something fun and positive!