Bumps and Bruises
As a parent, you are no doubt always watching out for hazards and dangers in your toddler's life. You probably work very hard to avoid situations that could injure your child and may even find yourself offering words of warning frequently throughout the day. Statements like don't climb on that, be careful, you might get hurt, watch out, get down from there, and the all inclusive shrill and heeding NO quickly become part of your routine dialogue.
Unfortunately, despite all your efforts to keep your toddler accident free, they are still bound to wind up with bumps and bruises from the many calamities that it seems only a toddler can find. Often something as simple as just walking down a concrete driveway affords enough opportunity for a toddler to get hurt. It is an alarming introduction into a new world where you do not have as much control over things as you did just a few short months ago, when your toddler was completely immobile and attached to you at the hip. So what is the best way to handle all of this?
The first thing to realize is that bumps and bruises are part of growing up. Skinned knees, bruised shins, knots on the head, stubbed toes, and scraped elbows are signs that your toddler, although a bit clumsy, is interested in the world around them and doesn't place a fear of not succeeding above the desire to learn more. Toddlers do not have the ability to see danger and think feats like climbing a fence, riding their tricycle down the steps, or scaling a bookcase are just a simple part of the wondrous world they see. Although scary for a parent, there is a certain inherent beauty in this time in their life where the world is most certainly their oyster and everything is theirs for the exploring.
Part of learning about their environment is being able to test, touch, taste, hear, and feel everything around them. Toddlers are blissfully unaware of the idea of limitations and few have developed the vocabulary that includes “I can't do that.” If only there was a way to preserve this confidence and encourage this love of life without stifling it with fear.
As a parent, it is important to supervise a toddler at all times. But we must be able to recognize their abilities and allow them to learn through doing. Sometimes this may lead to bumps and bruises. Obviously, we don't allow them to climb up on the roof and jump off, but enabling them to try things for themselves so they can learn what works and what doesn't allows them to develop confidence, decision making skills, pride, and gain an understanding of their world. If we stifle this too quickly by reacting in our fear of them getting hurt, we will end up with children who are fearful themselves. It is also important to explain things to our toddlers so they can begin to realize consequence and cause and effect.
Dealing with bumps and bruises is an easy thing. You can use ice and colorful band-aids, as well as the incredible healing power of your hugs to wipe away the pain. Stocking up on Neosporin and carrying inflatable ice packs and a first-aid kit in your bags at all times will ensure you are always prepared. At some point, one of their injuries may lead to an unfortunate broken bone or stitches, and most parents just pray that it won't leave a scar. This is the easy stuff. But dealing with insecurity, lack of confidence, fear, and a toddler who grows into a child that feels unequipped to make decisions or use their own thinking process to figure things out, is not such an easy fix. It can take years and years to undo the damage. Whereas a bruise is a visible wound that allows a toddler to retell their ‘deadly' feat in detail – a bump to their emotional freedom and creative exploration can hibernate for years deep in your toddler's psyche. The best advice is to use caution when you can, contain your own fears long enough to allow your toddler to be free, and always be there with a Scooby-Do Band-Aid, icepack, or Advil when your toddler needs you.