Children suffering with chronic pain will express that pain in a variety of ways. As parents, learning to read the pain signals in our children is important to not only gauging when medical attention is needed but also ensuring they are provided the necessary love and support to move through the healing process.
Chronic pain behaviors in children can be expressed through a variety of ways, much like adults. Ranging from verbal communication to abnormal behavior, we can learn quite a bit about our child’s pain response by pulling the pieces of the puzzle together.
In terms of verbal expression, it is important to consider your child’s cognitive processes and vocabulary basis in order to best understand how they express pain. That is to say, a child with a low vocabulary, who may be somewhat non expressive, or with impaired cognitive function, may not be able to express chronic pain complaints well in terms of verbal expression. As a result, we must turn to their body language and behavior.
Poor behavior, in a child who suffers from chronic pain, may be a complex issue to address. As a result, it is important, as a parent, to know when your child’s behavior is simply unruly or abnormal and well that behavior is directly related to a chronic pain issue. Without proper recognition of your child’s behavior or, conversely, when we over react to a child’s behavior, often, the behavior becomes magnified in an effort to gain attention when the chronic pain is not as significant as believed.
In addition to overt behavioral issues, the child who suffers from chronic pain may also display abnormal body language as a way in which to convey pain issues. Watching for signals such as decreased physical activity, changes in eating habits, avoiding social interaction with other children, changes in sleep patterns and even irritability; these are all symptoms of a child who may be suffering from some type of chronic pain complication.
So, how do you respond to these indicators in your child? Through communication. Without regard to age, all children have some basis of communication with their parent or caretaker. Using regular communication, even when your child is not suffering from pain, will ensure the child is more willing to engage you in conversation during times of good health and during times of need. Using a combination approach with communication, by monitoring verbal cues, behavioral changes and body language, parents caring for a child with chronic pain can remain one step ahead of the needs of their child.