Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The healing power of plasters!

I’ve written before about how sometimes a well-placed plaster makes all the difference to Mini at times.
You might remember that Mini is not good at letting us know when he’s got a real, genuine, full-on painful problem. But he’ll often wail for an hour after bumping his head on a cushion, scream if he drops a toy on his foot, or cry for an age after falling over. Plasters have allowed me to acknowledge the ‘hurt’, whilst not dwelling on the (lack of) pain. We’ve done that automatic thing of brushing the ‘hurt’ aside, so as to make it hurt less, that many parents do, and indeed something I remember my parents doing with me too.

Now I’ve learnt more about attachment and trauma, I understand that Mini isn’t really hurting physically when he does these things. But he’s hurting on the inside, and crying out for a cuddle, or attention, or love. Brushing it aside is brushing his feelings to one side too. It says ‘Mummy doesn’t care that I’m hurting, it’s not important to her’ and ‘I’m silly for feeling like this because daddy isn’t interested’. That of course isn’t true, but that’s how it feels to Mini when we don’t look at what he really means when he tells us something.

At my recent Theraplay course, I learnt about noticing the hurts (even just tiny scratches or bruises) and using them as opportunities to rub moisturiser (or magic cream as we call it here) into those areas. This enables touch which is vital to connecting with our children and reinforcing our relationship. In the first edition of the Theraplay book, Ann Jernberg talked about how we should ‘Take every opportunity to make physical contact with the child’. And Field (1993) said ‘Physical touch can relieve stress, decrease anxiety and depression and increase comfort’.
Mini lets me do this sometimes when he’s really up for touch. On occasion he enjoys a weather massage. Recently, he’s even begun to touch me – stroke my face, or my arm, which is really positive. But other times, when he’s feeling a bit sensitive, the touch is too much for him. Sometimes even a tap on the elbow to try to get eye contact is too much. On these occasions, Mini will quickly spiral into a meltdown.

So anyway, plasters. I’m not sure the therapists would agree with me that this is useful, but I see this as a compromise, and certainly a step in the right direction. It’s a way of me showing Mini that I’m accepting his ‘hurt’, appreciating that it must hurt, but also acknowledging that he doesn’t necessarily need or want cuddles, kisses or any other form of physical affection. I tell him that I love him, and I put a plaster on his ‘hurt’. It’s one thing saying ‘I love you’, but I’m following it up with a plaster that proves to him that I really do love him and I’m looking after him.

So I now own a variety of plasters – with bugs on, monkeys on, zips on, blood and guts on, see-through, waterproof, coloured, fabric, Pooh bear on, Mr Bump on, big ones, little ones, teeny tiny ones, huuuuuge ones.
How do your children react to ‘hurts’? Do they tell you or hide them? Would a plaster help…I’ve probably got one to suit!


  1. Yes! The Peppa plasters heal a multitude!We had the same meltdowns over being "bruised by this massive feather!" but she'd freeze and not acknowledge genuine injuries. It's taken months, but she's *just* starting to tell us if she bumps her head etc and it hurts. This is massive for her! Really interesting post. Theraplay is great!

    1. Theraplay is so great! I'm a convert.

      Those feathers can really hurt you know?!! ;-) But seriously, brilliant that LE is finding it easier to tell you if she really hurts now.

  2. And as you know, same here. Meltdown over nothing, and nothing over a real injury. I now give more attention to the minor things - and things seem to be getting slightly better. But plasters, no way. He begins to fear the removal bit, as soon as I mention the word! So, magic cream for us!

    1. Hey if magic cream works for you both then fab! Wish we could use it more here.

      I don't ever talk about taking the plaster off, not for these minor hurts. 8/10times it falls off (in bath/bed/at school) and he forgets all about it, but it's done it's job by then. When he's really cut himself, and I need to check on the wound he's always been pretty brave, and a dip in the grab bag is then a good reward (although I don't use it as an incentive in that instance).

  3. Don't even show my eldest son a plaster! Actually he is better than he used to be, but the mention of the word used to make him cry up to a year or so ago. Because he has Cystic Fibrosis he's had more than his share of blood tests, injections etc, not to speak of surgery, so he has had a lot of plasters, and dislikes them intensely. I think school used to think I was an awful mum when I'd send him in with big cuts and grazes not covered in plaster! It was easier for us both than having him sobbing and fighting me when I tried to plaster him. He is the sort of child that makes a terrific fuss when he has a tiny hurt, literally screaming dreadfully. However not for ages like Mini, it just lasts a few minutes. In fact when he fell off a bike about 4 years ago we didn't realise he'd broken a bone at first, because his screaming is often so frantic when he just knocks himself lightly, it was only the fact that he didn't want to move his arm that made us realise something was genuinely wrong.

    My youngest is the opposite, he used to not cry at all when he was hurt; and is only now learning that he must tell me or the teachers if he gets hurt at school, and he is learning that he can cry about it. We don't brush hurts away but we do kiss it better (not pleasant if it's a grubby toe!!)

    As for touch, I'm all for it. Both my boys are quite cuddly, thankfully, so can take a lot of touch. When I first adopted boy 2 I used to carry him a lot, and I think that helped. Boy 1 has percussion physiotherapy twice a day (patting his chest and back), and that is always a good excuse for getting close.

  4. It's long driven me crazy when parents gloss over children's injuries (physical, emotional, or imagined). Empathizing with a child will never make them weak or overly dramatic (the excuses I hear people use all the time). But taking a moment to acknowledge the boo boo helps a child feel hear. And that can make a world of difference!!!