Explaining A Military Amputation To Children

Military amputations are often stressful and traumatic, especially for children who may not fully understand what has happened to their parent in the course of their military duties. Talking helps, and to make the process of dealing with a recent amputation easier for you and your family, we have put together a brief guide on how to explain a military amputation to a child.

Explain what has happened
From the beginning, it is incredibly important to be as open and honest as possible with your child [1]. Although it may not be appropriate to explain all of the exact details of how or why the amputation took place, you should explain in an honest and age-appropriate way. Children often feel that a “bad” thing happening is their fault [2] , reassure them at all stages that this is not the case.

Allow children time to get used to the amputation
As with any big change, give children the time to come to terms with the amputation whilst reassuring them that everything will be okay. Every child will be different, and there is no ‘right or wrong’ way for a family to be coping. You can also encourage your children to write down their feelings or draw a picture, so that together you can discuss these emotions.

Answer questions
Children are naturally inquisitive so they may have different questions about the amputation. Making sure they know that they can ask any questions and giving them the time to do so can make all the difference in reducing their worries [3]. Teenagers will have different questions to a 10 year old, and vice versa. The idea is to take away the fear of the unknown, to help them to understand what has happened, so that they can process it.

Define new words
There are many terms associated with amputation that will be new and unfamiliar to children – maybe even to you. Taking the time to explain what these words mean in a language that children can understand – rather than trying to shield them from discussions about the amputation – helps them to feel included.

Be honest
Children often take in more than you may realise, so try to be honest about the fact that some elements of family life may change. If the amputation is serious, and leads to you or your partner retiring from service, your child may have concerns about where you will live, whether they will move schools again, and if they will lose touch with their military friends. This is natural – and they are probably questions and concerns that you will share. Try to focus on the things that won’t change and focus on the new things you are now going to do together as a family, putting future plans in place to look forward to.

Keep their minds occupied
In the early stages post-amputation, encourage your children to engage in simple and fun activities such as painting, puzzles or board games that you can do together. This not only serves as a distraction from worry, but also reminds them that family life will go on despite the amputation.

Learn more about the amputation
There are lots of resources out there to help children become more familiar with the idea of amputation. Books and TV programmes are a simple and interactive way to learn more [4] , ask questions and realise that being different is not a bad thing. If possible, you could also meet up with another family who has been through a similar event, this may help to “normalise” what is happening.

Other support following military amputations
As with any serious life event, it is important to recognise that everybody will react in a different way. If you feel that your child, or any member of your family, is struggling to cope then you can reach out for professional help. In the UK, the NHS provides services for veterans and their families, and charities such as BLESMA and Combat Stress can also support you.

Author Bio

The serious injury team at Thompsons Solicitors have significant experience helping service personnel to pursue military injury claims and secure compensation and rehabilitation after military accidents involving amputation. We can help secure compensation, including immediate payments (known as interim payments) to help you get any adaptations or rehabilitation you need as well as the family get any support they need to help you all cope as well as possible following an amputation.

If you would like to discuss your situation in more detail, you can contact our serious injury solicitors on 0800 0 224 224.

[1]Blesma Magazine, Family Life, pg. 29 https://blesma.org/media/441821/blesma_mag_winter_2017.pdf

[2]The psychological concerns of the Solider Amputee; http://www.amputee-coalition.org/military-instep/psychological-concerns.html

[3]When a parent loses a limb: Helping children cope https://www.amputee-coalition.org/resources/when-a-parent-loses-a-limb-helping-children-cope/

[4]Resources to help children understand limb loss, Amputee Coalition, https://www.amputee-coalition.org/resources/understand-limb-loss/


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