One of the things that may surprise you is that band-aids can be a truly magical healing tool - it’s almost like you can’t have enough of them in your parenting toolkit. We know from our own experiences as children that when we fall down and someone notices our ‘outside hurt’ (scrape, cut, etc) and offers to help with a band-aid, this is a powerful act of care. An interesting off-shoot of this is, sometimes band-aids are helpful and necessary for ‘inside hurts’ as well. When a child has an ‘inside hurt’ from things like missing their friends they can’t see right now, or having a quarrel with a sibling and being called a ‘bad name’, these are times we can show our children that we care not only about their ‘outside hurts’, but we care about their ‘inside hurts’ too.
Offering a bandaid for ‘inside hurts’ may seem odd - but it truly is a way to connect to the heart of a child who is hurting inside. Whether it’s an outside hurt or an inside hurt, get on your child’s level, look them in the eye, and say “I’m so sorry that happened to you. Would you like to have a band-aid on that?”
Many of us were raised with invalidating responses such as, “Oh, it doesn’t hurt that bad! Brush it off! You’re fine!” Those responses, while usually well-intended, don’t connect with the heart of the child- which is absolutely what we always want to do- connect with your child’s heart. Because when you do, you increase their feelings of safety and trust in you. They know they are valued and loved by you, and their feelings of self-worth increase.
Sit on the floor with your child and practice giving and receiving band-aids for both inside and outside hurts. Pretend that someone said something mean to you today and you have an ‘inside hurt’ on your heart. Ask the child to help you put a bandaid on top of your heart. Ask your child, “Do you have any inside or outside hurts today? Would you like me to put a band-aid on that?” At first, it may seem silly, but eventually, your child will come to understand that we all get inside hurts, just as we get outside hurts. And that we adults care enough about them to pay attention and give care for all of their hurts-whether they are inside hurts or outside hurts.
Written by Deb Levenseller, Clinical Director at The Maine Children's Home for The Connected Community @ MCH.