Parenting a Child Amputee
Many other families have walked this road before you, and with their past experiences, and the right resources, you can receive the support you need to help your child flourish and thrive.
Whether your child has a congenital limb deficiency (an amputation or malformation of the limb that is present at birth), or an acquired amputation (where a child’s intact limb is removed), you will face many of the same challenges, obstacles, and emotions. It is important to acknowledge and talk about your feelings surrounding your child’s challenges early on so that you can work through them and focus on meeting your child’s needs.
Some of the most common feelings shared by parents of child amputees include grief, guilt, shame, blame, looking back, anger, rejection, overprotection, pity, worry, frustration, and doubt. All of these emotions – and more – are completely normal. It is important to seek the help you need so that you can process these emotions in a healthy way. Allow yourself to work through these feelings – but do this away from your child, as children can sense what is going on around them. This will allow you to approach your child’s rehabilitation with a positive and realistic outlook.
In the first weeks and months of your child’s birth or amputation, you would’ve consulted with various professionals who helped you create a plan of action for your child. Some of these professionals may have included nurses, occupational therapists, oncologists, orthopaedic surgeons or specialists, orthotists, psychiatrists, physicians, physiotherapists, prosthetists, psychologists, and social workers. At first, you may doubt your ability to make the best decisions for your child, but know that these experts are there to help you during all of the different stages of this process. Try to remember that there is no such thing as a stupid question or too many questions. These professionals are there to help and are instrumental in assisting you to set and meet your child’s rehabilitation objectives.
Another challenging aspect of this journey that you will need to navigate is how you will handle the people around you, including family, friends, and the public. You may receive questions, comments, and stares from strangers, both adult and children. Some questions may show simple interest, and some may be rude and thoughtless.
Some parents feel comfortable right away answering questions or responding to comments about their child, while other parents feel uncomfortable, and may want to practice with a family member or friend at home before the questions begin. It is natural to have good days and bad, but an overall approach of positivity can help provide cues to family, friends, and the public on how to act towards your child.
You, as a parent of a child amputee, need not be alone. For over 40 years, The War Amps have been leaders in providing services to amputee children under 18 and their families. Through their CHAMP program, they offer a wide variety of services including financial assistance, regional seminars and peer support.
With the right resources and support, you will be able to meet the challenges head on and provide your child with a positive environment that will help your child – and your family – move forward together. Child amputees are always pushing the limits with their physical achievements, and you can help them to do so.
Reprinted with permission from Winnipeg Prosthetics & Orthotics; www.winpo.ca