Parenting advice in a heartbreaking situation

[name_f]My[/name_f] oldest is the sweetest little girl, she’s very much a sit back and observe personality and doesn’t throw herself into things without a lot of thinking time. This means though (right now at least) she has a hard time making friends, as the 3 yr olds usually aren’t the ‘wait and watch’ type.
However, she has one best friend and they’ve been friends pretty much since birth. They’ve done every birthday, holiday, party etc together. They usually have regular play dates. Everytime we go somewhere to play she asks if they’re gonna be there, she talks about them daily… just best friends.
But this absolutely loved, sweet little person just had a traumatic accident (one they are very, very lucky to have survived) and it sounds like they are going to have a very long road to recovery. We are so glad they are still here with us and so grateful to those who are taking such good care of them and are very hopeful that they will make a significant recovery, but absolutely heartbroken that they have to go through this.
But how do you tell your 3 yr old that their best friend might not remember them? [name_u]Or[/name_u] that they might not be able to, or want to, play the same type of games that they use to? [name_u]Or[/name_u] they might act differently? And that its possible it might take a very long time for them to get better. [name_m]Just[/name_m] thinking of doing the next holiday and not having the two of them running around together makes me cry.

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I don’t have any advice, but oh my. How very, very sad. I will be keeping this little one and their family in my prayers.

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I am not yet a parent, but the best advice I can give is to be as truthful as you think she can handle. Let her know that her friend hasn’t been feeling well and needs time to rest. That their body is fighting hard and helping them get better. That maybe they don’t feel up to playing like they used to, or might not like playing with the same things anymore. Their parents and doctors are doing a great job helping keep them healthy and happy but right now (if you aren’t able to see them in person) you guys need to give them space so they can help keep them feeling good. If it’s possible let her have facetimes or chats with the friend on a schedule (maybe once a week) so she has something to look forward to. Give her projects to work on such as a get well soon card or a picture that she can give to her friend.
She will probably as a lot of questions, so be prepared to guide her through what is happening. Let her know that her friend is thinking of her and smiling because they know that she is waiting for her to get better. If her friend doesn’t remember her maybe you could try and help her see it as a chance to try new games together.
Let her know that her friend loves her very much no matter if they recognize her or not. [name_f]Every[/name_f] night before bed have a chat about the friend. Talk about what you can do to make her or her friend feel better or what will help them heal nicely. Send well wishes their way before sleep. Maybe even read them a story!

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I find it hard to give any advice, because every child is different and needs a different approach. [name_f]My[/name_f] oldest son is a bit like your daughter though, he’s always been more observant and has a hard time making friends.

I think the most important thing is to be as truthful and open as you can, on your daughter’s level. You know her best, so you know what she can understand and handle much better than I do. But if there’s one thing I know, it’s that children fill in the blanks themselves if you don’t give them the information they need. Your daughter will inevitably have questions and doubts about the situation, now and later, and all you can do is answer them as best you can. Sometimes you won’t have the answers, and it’s alright to tell your child you don’t always know everything. [name_m]Just[/name_m] let her know that you’re there for her to talk to, to cry to. And don’t be afraid to show her that you’re sad about it too.

[name_f]Do[/name_f] you have a good relationship with the friend’s parents? Maybe you could talk to them as well about how to handle the situation. Maybe not now, as they probably have enough to deal with, but later on, before your daughter sees her friend again for the first time etc.

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Oh what an awful situation for everyone involved!
I think telling your daughter that her friend was involved in an accident and that she’s slowly going to get better is a given, however, it also sounds like they’re still at the very beginning of recovery, so for the most part I’d just wait and see what happens, what updates you get. Always with an open ear for any questions your daughter might have and also encouraging her to talk to you if she feels unsure or uncomfortable when she visits her friend, but perhaps not presenting her with maybes and mights beforehand - especially if she’s a thinker.

Perhaps you and your daughter can also create photo albums/scrapbooks for both of them; so that your daughter has something she can always look at when missing her friend and her friend, even if she doesn’t remember your daughter from before the accident, can get to know her face and feel loved by her before meeting her, so that your daughter doesn’t feel like a stranger to her.

I wish you and your friends the best of luck on their recovery :mending_heart:

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First off, I’m so sorry for your daughters friend. I wish her the best of luck in her recovery.

I would tell your daughter honestly and age appropriate that her friend was in an accident and may struggle a little bit playing games and stuff but we are still going to be her friend and we can play with her in different ways now.

If her mother allows it, maybe they can have a movie day and watch a movie together under a blanket or something like that. Something where they can still spend time together but are low key activies.

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Oh this truly is heartbreaking!

I’m so sorry to hear about your daughter’s friend and I wish her all the best with her recovery :white_heart:

I think honesty is the best policy and I would tell her what’s happened in an age appropriate manner. I love @PrincessShannon answer and would probably advise the same.

Wishing you all the best

I have no advice to give but I will keep her and her family, you and your family, and every single person involved or affected in my prayers. There are no words for this kind of situation, so please take my immense love towards all of you in its place. :heart:


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[name_f]My[/name_f] response was going to be very similar to @Rosebeth. Be open and truthful. Kids will fill in the blanks where you leave them, so if she has questions don’t say things like “you don’t need to worry about it” or “you’ll understand more when you’re older” or anything like that. But also if you don’t know an answer to a question, be truthful that you don’t know. If possible say “maybe we can do xyz (look it up online, talk to friend’s mom, etc) to find out” so she doesn’t feel like her questions are being left unanswered (unless of course it’s a question that genuinely cannot be answered). Make sure to also give hope and optimism, but be realistic. Don’t say anything like “they’ll be all better soon!” Because that will just lead to feelings of confusion, disappointment, betrayal if/when it doesn’t happen. Another thing to be prepared for is your child might react by being afraid of herself or other people she knows getting hurt as well. Once again, don’t make any unrealistic promises (i.e. “mommy will make sure that never happens to you!”), but obviously be reassuring and positive - “this was a rare accident, but even if something bad did happen to you, mommy and daddy would take care of you and still love you just like (friend) is still loved and taken care of.” Also I’m not sure what exactly happened but you can include “we can try to avoid this happening by doing xyz.” which can also help ease anxiety because it gives them concrete ways to be in control.
Most importantly make sure you are honest about the ways the friend will be different, but also the ways the friend will be the same. “X cannot play tag with you anymore right now, but they may still love to watch (favorite movie or show) with you!” And “they may look different because xyz (or speak differently or act differently, etc) but inside they still love you and feel xyz”

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Thank you all. We’ve so far been trying to be as honest with her as we can in terms she can understand. I think the hardest part right now is it’s too early, we just don’t know, so we can’t really answer questions or prepare her for what the future holds.
And tbh I’m more upset about it for her, than she’s upset. And I can totally see her just rolling with it, and it not even really fazing her. But I guess that’s just part of being mom.

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I’m so sorry to hear about her friend, keeping them and you in my thoughts. :white_heart:

As an educator, one resource I really like to use is [name_f]Sesame[/name_f] [name_f]Street[/name_f] in Communities - they have advice and guidance for handling every topic from Incarceration and Deportation, to Autism, to Health Emergencies, etc.

https://sesamestreetincommunities.org/topics/

I’ve used them for guidance and activities to help with a few things before, and since the site and show are run by a team of childcare professionals (teachers, pediatricians, psychologists, etc.), I find it to be a trusted resource.

Otherwise, I’ll echo that you need to be honest but in an age-appropriate way, and that she may have questions, OR she may not ask at all and seem to not be phased. Both are completely normal responses to a trauma like this from a child so young. The seven stages of grief may or may not apply here as well, as they may be grieving how things were before.

In young children, sometimes grief can cause a regression in behaviours, such as returning to thumbsucking for comfort, or issues with potty training, irritability, etc. All of this is completely normal, and not permanent, but a way of their minds processing everything and dealing with big emotions and feelings they’ve never dealt with before.

[name_f]Hope[/name_f] this helps somewhat, take care!

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