How to Discuss Adult Limb Loss With Kids

How to Discuss Adult Limb Loss With Kids

Friday, 02 December 2022 12:07

Navigating life with limb loss is challenging. Almost two million people are living with limb loss in America. Among those who have experienced amputations, a little over fifty percent of them are the result of vascular disease, while forty-five percent of amputations are the result of trauma. 

Regardless of the cause of your limb loss, the experience can be traumatic. Life-changing events, both good and bad, have a way of altering how we look at ourselves and the world. Everyone handles loss differently. Our age, cultural, and social circumstances all affect our recovery. For those who have lost a limb, that grief and pain can negatively affect how you perceive your body and self-worth.

How to Discuss Adult Limb Loss with Kids

If you are someone who regularly interacts with younger children (whether as a parent, older relative, teacher, or another social leader), you may find yourself not only facing your own body image issues, but also the added burden of needing to discuss your loss with kids.

Just as you will have feelings ranging from fear, confusion, sadness, and anger, so too might younger children in your life. These emotions are natural, and the most important thing is to validate and acknowledge that others may respond emotionally and strongly to your limb loss. For children, this response can be confusing to work through.

Kids may be open and direct with questions directed toward the parent or individual who has lost a limb or has a limb difference, or they may turn to another adult instead. Either way, it is essential for families and caregivers to answer questions thoughtfully and honestly. And to give kids time to process what has happened.

Let’s discuss ways to help answer a few common questions that may come up from children (or other adults) and methods to help kids cope with your limb loss.

Answering Common Questions from Kids

Every child will have different reactions, fears, and curiosity surrounding limb loss. But there are a few common questions an adult will likely face, including:

  • Where is the arm/leg?
  • Does it hurt?
  • Will it happen to me, too?

Be honest, but also be mindful of the differences in life experience and understanding. Avoid complicated answers concerning a disease or accident, opting for simplifying that you ‘were very sick/hurt’ and that it was the best choice for you to get better. And emphasize that last part. 

Yes, it will be a scary, challenging, and lengthy process, but the amputation will eventually begin to feel a little more normal. Relate the experience to something a child can understand, like a scrape from falling down and how the pain from that slowly got better over time. Limb loss is rarely any single person's fault, whether from disease or accident. 

Alleviate their fears about it happening to them by being honest about the circumstances but not tying it to a specific cause or event (such as being in a car for driving accidents). They need to understand limb loss can’t be caught from someone else and that it isn’t a punishment. Make it clear that even if they were present for the accident, it was not their fault that this happened.

Helping Kids Cope with Adult Limb Loss

Explain how things will change and how they will stay the same after limb loss. You will still care for and love them, but there may be some hurdles to overcome. Don’t be surprised if a kid is hesitant to touch or get close to the limb, but they may also be overly curious, and you shouldn’t be afraid to set a boundary if you need time to desensitize the limb to touch.

Be as open and honest with them as you want them to be with you, and encourage them to help come up with new solutions so you can still partake in your favorite hobbies or brainstorm new activities to start together.

If your child doesn’t speak to you about your limb loss, you can reach out to other adults or caregivers to let them know to help support your child if they open up to others. And you can encourage your child to express what they are feeling through art or writing instead. 

Acceptance Through Reading

Providing books for your kid to read that address the theme of limb loss or limb difference can be a fantastic way to help acclimate your child to the concept in a safe and familiar way to how they often first begin to learn about other difficult topics. The Amputee Coalition has a fantastic list of books aimed at younger kids about limb disabilities and what it is like to be an amputee.

Whether your limb loss was sudden from an accident or planned due to an ongoing illness, a good book or two can go a long way to helping explain what is happening and give kids the words to help express how they feel.

Orthopedic Appliance Company Is Here to Help

For sixty years, we have been serving people and families who are often near the beginning of their limb loss journey. We provide the highest-quality prosthetic devices to help restore your mobility and give you the tools you need to establish a new normal. We have met countless people who have turned their limb loss into a positive and are making the most of life. 

If you are working with a rehabilitation team to determine what kind of prosthetic device would work best for you, we are here to help. We have three convenient locations in Asheville, Fletcher, and Hickory, with more to come. Contact us today for more information about artificial limbs in the Asheville area.