Our six-year old started camp for the first time this summer. On her fourth day of camp, a whirling soccer ball hit her on the arm and sent her falling down to the ground, breaking two bones in her right wrist.
After getting her the emergency care and rest that she needed, the reality of her arm cast set in for all of us. It was only the first week of summer vacation! No water activities, no sand, no biking or scootering, no jump roping, no bowling, no mini golfing, and no playing on the playground!
As if summer isn’t already short enough, how would we help her to enjoy these next 6 weeks?
Losing the independence to wash, dress, and feed ourselves would certainly be challenging for any of us (try eating and brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand!), but for a 6-year old who just learned to write this past year and whose all-time favorite activity is drawing and coloring, all of these limitations were enough to cause even the most high-spirited kid to feel a bit down.
So, we acknowledged her sadness and also started to compile a list of the things that she could do this summer. Breaking bones is very common with children (our daughter is the third kid with a cast at her small summer camp) and so we decided to share what we learned along this journey.
Rest & Recuperate
The first two or three days after a break, keep your child mellow. This is usually fairly easy to do because broken bones hurt and your child probably won’t want to do a whole lot.
The focus should be on keeping your child comfortable by reducing pain and inflammation. In our experience, homeopathic remedies such as Arnica and T-Relief are very effective and can be applied topically and/or taken orally. Ice can be used initially to reduce inflammation as well (until the cast or splint is put on) and elevating the injured body part above the heart will help to decease the swelling.
You may also give your child pain relieving anti-inflammatory medications, such as Advil, as needed. While we recommend using these drugs sparingly, Dr. Roy believes that the benefits often outweigh the costs for short-term use. Pain management will help your child to be able to rest and get good quality sleep, both of which are necessary for healing. Please see Dr. Roy’s article for dosing these medications.
Zinc Carnosine has been shown to protect the stomach lining when taking NSAIDs. We use and recommend Xymogen brand PepciX (1 chewable tablet, twice daily).
Turn that Frown Upside Down!
By the time the acute pain passed, we decided to throw our daughter a cast-signing party. We needed the party to be low-key so she invited only three of her closest friends who came over to watch a movie, eat popcorn together, and sign her cast. Seeing her friends immediately lifted her spirits and she was so touched to receive cards and balloons from them. Looking down at her cast and seeing her friends’ names, drawings, and cute messages (such as “you are so brave” and “you are epic”) returned a smile back to her face.
We also decided to do a fun photo shoot. This was actually our daughter’s idea and she wanted me to take pictures of her with her cast on. I loved the idea because again, it helped turn a disappointing situation into something memorable and special. She dressed up in one of her favorite dresses and we had a blast taking pictures of her posing with her new (and newly signed) arm accessory!
Indoor & Outdoor Activities
It can be easy to focus all of our attention on the things that we can’t do and the events that we will have to miss out on. So we decided to sit down together and make a list of all the fun summer activities that our daughter would still be able to do even with an arm cast. This is similar to what I have my clients do when they are doing a cleanse or following a more limiting diet: instead of thinking only about the things they can’t eat, I ask them to make a list of all the foods they can enjoy (or want to try). Seeing all the possibilities laid out before them will usually help to start a positive shift in mind set. Below are our lists.
- Board games
- Card games
- Go to a play or musical
- Read together
- Cook together
- Have a dance party
- Have friends over for playdates
- Craft projects such as finger knitting and rainbow loom
- Movie nights
- Scavenger hunts
- Play hackysack
- Kick around a soft ball
- Dribble a playground ball
- Ride a plasma car
- Bean bag toss
* Some kids may be able to swim with a cast if you can find a waterproof cast cover that fits well. After doing some research, we ordered the DryPro Waterproof Cast Cover but even the smallest size did not create a tight enough seal to become waterproof for our daughter.
Although it is hard for most parents to see their child in any kind of distress, it is also times like these that can be great opportunities for kids to grow and learn to recognize their inner strength. We encouraged our daughter to learn to feed herself with her left hand (and as a family found it hysterical that even left-handed she made far less of a mess than her 9-year old brother!).
At camp she quickly taught herself how to finger knit and rainbow loom, using the immobile fingers on her casted hand to learn these new hobbies, which she now adores!
Initially we encouraged her to also try to learn to write and color with her left hand, but as a kid new to writing she found this to be very challenging. We did find that once our daughter’s wrist healed more and more, she had the strength again to do many activities with her right hand, even while still in the cast.
For example, at first it was hard for her to fully grasp a pencil and we created this “writing-hack” —a pencil through a soft foam ball— that was larger and easier for her broken wrist to grip. But as the weeks went on, she no longer needed our “writing-hack” and was able to write and color effortlessly with her cast still on.
Time Heals All Wounds
As the saying goes, “time heals all wounds”. Well at least this seems to be the case for kids with broken bones. 🙂 Whether you are the parent of a child who one day breaks a bone— or you have a friend whose child does — we hope that our experience helps you to more smoothly navigate your own.