Kids are always curious and want to know the “hows” and “whys,” especially when it comes to missing limbs. The most common questions that children might ask are: “What happened to your leg or arm?” and “Did it break off?” Be prepared to help the child with an answer that is appropriate for his or her age, and of course developmental level.
Below are some suggestions to help you navigate this new territory.
- Avoid giving children too much information, such as details about a complicated disease or the amputation surgery.
- Help them understand that limb loss is not a punishment. However, if it’s the result of an accident, you may want to talk about safety issues at an appropriate time.
- Make sure children understand that the parent is still a mommy or daddy regardless of the limb difference. Talk about what is important – Daddy can still read a bedtime story and Mommy will still brush your hair.
- You may also want to discuss which things may be different. Mom may have to learn a new way to bake chocolate chip cookies; Dad may not be able to walk the dog for a few weeks.
- Explain the new words: prosthesis, limb, residual limb, prosthetist, etc. If possible, make it fun by making a game out of spelling or pronunciation of these words.
- Focus on the similarities, but prepare gently for the differences.
- If possible, have the child talk with other children whose parents have lost a limb. It will help them understand that their parents aren’t the only ones dealing with limb loss.
- And finally, encourage the child to express his or her feelings through drawing, poetry, or telling and writing a story.
By helping children cope with limb loss, they will eventually ask fewer questions and be more accepting of these, as well as other differences that people may have.