When our children were newborn, we cradled their heads in our hands, supporting their necks and anxiously aware of the importance of those adorable little noggins. We protected their heads then, and we do our best to protect them as they get older, from hats to helmets — but bonks on the head still happen. While most bonks are just that, as the kids get older and those bonks come with increased risk for headaches, vision and hearing changes and other symptoms, it’s time to educate yourself about head injuries and concussions.
So much of parenting is a balance. Being aware of risks, mitigating risks where appropriate — yet still allowing our children to stretch and grow. And, yes, sometimes they get hurt. We all hope none of those injuries are serious, but if they are, we need to know the risks and we need to know how to act.
With the rising awareness of the long-term risks of concussions and head injuries, this is one area where moms need to be at the very least aware.
Head injuries are serious
While not all bonks on the head are full-blown “head injuries,” the recovery from a single concussion can last for months, and damage from multiple concussions is cumulative.
Adults can have complications from concussions years after the event. A study out of the University of North Carolina on retired professional football players showed that recurrent concussions increase risk for clinical depression. Some physicians feel this risk is even higher in the adolescents with a teen’s in flux body chemistry.
Prevention is better than treatment
At the risk of restating the obvious, it’s always better to prevent rather than treat. Aside from strapping our children to couches for their entire childhood (and that would have its own risks!), we can’t prevent everything. We can make sure that our children don’t take unnecessary risks, however.
What this means for you is making sure that your home is safe for younger children by addressing slippery floors and bathtubs, making sure stair rails are correctly installed and other basics. Where, in your home, is it unreasonably easy to lose your balance? These steps will make your home safer for you, too.
For older kids spending more time out in the world, it’s making sure sports coaches have appropriate protocols and training for handling sports injuries, talking about the risks of certain behaviors and insisting on appropriate safety equipment for certain activities. Your child — particularly your adolescent — likely will still take risks, but hopefully not with total abandon.
Helmets aren’t foolproof
That said, helmets and other safety equipment are not foolproof! For example, your child who is an excellent snowboarder who always wears a helmet and doesn’t like to do jumps can still hit a nasty patch of ice on the slopes and incur a concussion in spite of that helmet.
Some sports mouth guards claim to help prevent head injuries, but do they really give a false sense of security? Don’t assume that because you’ve taken appropriate prevention steps and the right gear is being used that injuries will never happen.
When in doubt, check it out
When a child has suffered any kind of a blow to the head, “Walk it off,” or, “You’ll be fine,” are not necessarily appropriate responses. Yes, some bonks on the head will be just bonks on the head — a little ice, a little TLC and your darling is good to go.
If you have any doubt about the blow, however, better to have your child seen by a medical professional. Changes in vision and hearing should be addressed immediately, and headaches should be watched closely. You just don’t want to mess with that beautiful head.
As scary as head injuries are, being aware and appropriately vigilant in reducing unnecessary risk is possible in balance with letting our kids take the physical risks they need to take as they grow into adults. We may not be able to prevent every injury our kids incur, but being aware of head injuries and concussions can help us manage it correctly if it does happen.
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