Helping Your Child Cope - and Thrive - with an Orthopedic Brace or Prosthetic Device
Whether your child has a disability, has experienced an amputation, or deals with another life-changing condition, they look to you for strength. They look to you for guidance on how to cope with an orthopedic brace or prosthetic limb and for the hope they need that they can enjoy activities, grow, and thrive like other children.
We know this is difficult! Being the “rock” for your child is tough, especially when you’re worried - and terrified. Will they be able to play with other children? Will they hurt themselves more frequently or more severely? Will others treat them differently? Will they face teasing or bullying? Will their self-esteem suffer?
The answers are: maybe. It depends on your child and a variety of other factors. What is certain is that there will be changes, and many of them will be difficult. Learning how to cope is essential.
- Prepare Yourself - and Stay Positive
Yes, life is different now, but that does not mean it’s over. Believe it! Your child can still have a great, fulfilling life, career, family… A positive attitude is not always easy to maintain, but it does help your child see the possibility of a bright future. Remember, your kid takes their cues from you. If you believe it, they’ll come to believe it too.
Prepare yourself for the physical, mental, and emotional challenges and know that you will have to make adjustments. Model for your child the idea that this is a learning experience and process and that you’re on the journey together.
- Make Sure You Are Informed
Learn as much as you can about limb loss, prosthetic appliances, and/or orthopedic braces. If your child has lost a limb, for example, practice putting it on and removing it so it just becomes a part of your child’s routine. Ask your orthopedic appliance company how best to care for the prosthesis.
Get people in your child’s life on board. Speak to their teachers or daycare providers about their condition and any accommodations they need. Reinforce that even though they may need some assistance or special requirements in some cases, they should not be treated differently than their peers (e.g. by separating them, keeping them from certain activities, etc.).
- Be Honest About the Reactions They Could Experience
While your child’s orthopedic brace or prosthetic device allows them to regain mobility and enjoy all or many of the same activities they did before or that their peers do, sometimes reactions can be negative. Bullying can occur, but even stares and comments can be uncomfortable or painful.
Confront this head on. You can’t shield your child from the world, nor should you. You can, however, talk to them about what they may experience - and how to handle it. Emphasize that some people react negatively out of fear: when your child is ready, they may find it helpful to be able to talk to these individuals about why they have a brace or device and how it works. If they don’t choose to, that’s perfectly fine too! It’s their decision what they want to talk about.
Children often respond to those who wear orthopedic braces or prosthetics by staring or asking questions. Frequently, though, they soon get used to it and it’s not a big deal. They may not even notice it any longer. Many are very compassionate and kind. And for those who are not, teach your child not to respond with violence.
- Encourage Them To Talk About Their Feelings
Don’t downplay your child’s situation; when the conversation turns in this direction, let it. It’s important to be positive, of course, and part of this is releasing negative emotions, confusion, and fear to a trusted adult. You will always be there, and you can remind them of others in their life to whom they can turn (e.g. a counselor, therapist, teacher, family member, etc.).
- Get Support
You are not alone, though it can feel that way. Groups like the Amputee Coalition of America and the Association of Children’s Prosthetic-Orthotic Clinics can be great resources. If you have a support group in your area, give it a try. And if not, seek out an online group.
- Don’t Forget About Your Needs
It’s easy to let your child’s condition take over your life. It is understandable that you want to be there and support them every step of the way. You can do that and still take care of yourself. You may find it helpful to speak to a counselor, reach out to friends, and practice self-care each day (e.g. walking, yoga, meditation, praying, exercise, etc.). This will help you refuel - and this will help you remain strong for your child.
- Be Patient - With Your Child and Yourself
Your family is adjusting to a new normal. It is a process, and it takes time. If you stumble along the way, get frustrated, cry, or lose your cool, forgive yourself and get back up. Children are resilient and they can adapt. With a bit of time, patience, and a lot of love, they will thrive.
If you would like more information about pediatric prosthetic devices and orthopedic bracing, contact Orthopedic Appliance Company.