Whether it’s a scraped knee from a bike crash or a shot at the doctor’s office, no parent likes to see his or her child in pain. There are things parents or caregivers can do to help manage, or even relieve, their child’s pain, says Thomas Hobson, Le Bonheur’s director of Child Life. Check out his best tips for pain management below.

  • Don’t overreact. Children take more cues from adults than we realize. Simply watch a young child fall and scratch his knee. Often, he’ll pop up and look at his parent before reacting. The kid wants to see what the parent thinks and will then choose a response. So, overreacting will translate into a more painful experience. Also, in situations like an upcoming vaccination, it’s best not to go on about how much shots hurt and that you hate them. This just builds up dread and fear.
  • If it’s going to hurt, tell them. Most people will tell you they hate it when someone lies to them, and children are no exception to this group. If something, like a flu shot, is going to be painful, and you tell them it won’t hurt at all, your child will think you lied to him. The shock of the unexpected pain -- and lie -- will make the experience worse. Also, your child will be less likely to believe you in similar situations in the future.
  • …but, suggest how it may feel. Because the experience of pain is subjective, it can be influenced. So, using the example previous example of the flu shot, you can tell your child that yes it will hurt, but it will only feel like a quick pinch. Most children can relate to that pain and realize that it will be a bearable experience.
  • Distract them. If your child is engaged in something they enjoy, he or she will experience less pain. If you know a potentially painful experience is coming up, plan in advance and bring some things along. However, if you are surprised by the situation, you can always talk to them or play games like I Spy, for instance. Also, be supportive in your language, but don’t say phrases like “I’m sorry” or “it’ll be over soon.” Despite these being natural things to say, research shows that they actual make children’s experience of pain worse.
  • Prepare them for what will happen. The unknown is often scarier than the known. So, if you have a chance in advance, prepare your child for what will happen. For children, this means talking about the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touch of the experience. If you’re going to clean up your child’s scrapped knee, tell them all of the steps that you are going to take before you start. This will prepare him or her for what will happen at each step of the way.