Kids: Back to School After Illness or Injury
When your child misses weeks of school due to hospitalization, surgery, or serious illness, it can be difficult for them to transition back to a classroom environment. Learn more about possible setbacks they might face and how chiropractic may help.
Kids who return to school after weeks or months of being absent from school face many challenges readjusting to a classroom environment. But when your child has missed class due to health problems, you may be dealing with a much more serious situation. Students who miss class due to hospitalization, illness, or injury, have a more difficult time being reintegrated into the classroom.
It is important for parents, teachers, and caregivers to understand the challenges these kids face:
Anxiety. Your child may feel anxious because things no longer “feel” the same as they did before. The desk may not feel the same to them. The way they write may not feel the same or even look the same. They may have bigger worries and concerns than other kids their same age. They may even have bigger worries and concerns than their teacher has. They may have anxiety about many different things and may have difficulty putting their feelings into words.
Loss of focus. Your child may only be able to focus for five minutes at a time. They may be easily distracted. If they hear a beeping sound, it may remind them of time spent in Intensive Care, when they were exposed to the sounds of many alarms and monitors. It may now require a huge amount of mental energy to do routine tasks that used to be second nature. Your child may “zone out” while the teacher is speaking, during exams, and even while eating lunch.
Pain. It isn’t normal for healthy children to have pain, especially unrelenting pain. If your child is contending with pain or discomfort during the school day, this can significantly impact how well they are able to absorb and process new information. Young children may not be able to express the sensations that they are feeling. They may not be able to describe their pain. A child who is having discomfort may withdraw from the world around them. They may also show grumpiness/irritability or simply give up on their schoolwork.
Side effects from medication. Kids can experience side effects from medication they are currently taking. They may also display long-term side effects months after they have stopped taking a medication. Sometimes it takes a while for their bodies to eliminate all traces of pharmaceuticals from their system. This is especially true if your child has undergone general anesthesia.
Loss of sleep / interrupted sleep. It’s pretty much impossible to enjoy a comfortable, full night’s sleep while in the hospital. (This is because of continual blood draws, administration of meds, temperature checks, and the occasional late night x-ray.) By the time your child has returned home, they may have lost their normal day/night cycle. This means they find themselves wide awake in the middle of the night. It may take weeks to properly reset their internal time clock. This leaves your child sleep deprived and tired during the day.
Difficulty remembering what they have learned. While your kid recovers, they may suddenly realize that they have trouble remembering a basic concept. (What does the letter “N” look like again? What is the last part of the 6 multiplication table?) They may temporarily forget people’s names. They may struggle to find the right word.
Feelings of frustration. Their lack of sleep, inability to concentrate, and failure to perform activities that they easily did before, can leave them feeling discouraged and frustrated. It’s difficult for teens to convey their fears and for small children to explain that they feel like they are a failure. Sometimes their feelings turn into anger against circumstances that are beyond their control.
Former milestones that they have achieved must be re-met / re-learned. No one feels good about going back to re-learn “baby” concepts. They may need to re-learn how to swing a bat or dribble a basketball. It may take them longer to get dressed in the morning or to eat their dinner in the evening.
Self doubt / loss of self confidence. Your kid may wonder, “Am I always going to feel this way?” They may feel unable to face the challenges that each day brings. Because these challenges seem easy to those around them, they feel even more discouraged when they feel they cannot perform as expected.
Social concerns relating to peers. Sometimes they feel as if they can no longer relate to their friends. Your kid may have just made it through a life threatening (or life altering) situation. Your kid may have deep concerns such as, “Will I ever be able to play sports again?” or “What if I had died?” Yet, at school their friend’s largest concerns might revolve around console games, social media, and what movie they watched. It’s difficult for your child to relate.
Loss of muscle memory and fine-motor skills. Depending upon your child’s situation, or if they had to remain confined to a hospital bed for many days, they may experience issues with muscle coordination. If your child had to be intubated (a breathing tube attached to a machine was used to help them breathe) for several days or weeks, it will take them longer to recover. If your child had to be immobilized for weeks (such as with fractures of major skeletal bones), it will also extend the amount of time needed to recover.
Decreased physical endurance. Kids who have been ill or injured may feel tired. They may feel exhausted after climbing stairs, walking to and from class, or carrying a heavy backpack.
Change in interests. Things that interested your child before might have changed. What was extremely important before, may no longer be a priority. They may be uninterested in former hobbies or activities they previously enjoyed.
Now it’s time to mention some good news! Even in the midst of facing the above mentioned obstacles and challenges, kids are incredibly resilient. Their bodies heal and repair much faster than the bodies of adults. Their brains and nervous systems are able to create new pathways. Their musculo-skeletal system is able to adapt quickly.
Kids can make great progress by seeing a developmental pediatrician / licensed professional counselor who is has experience in working with young people. This will help their minds to heal as their bodies are also healing.
As chiropractors, we are able to offer support to these kids in a number of ways. Through gentle chiropractic adjustments to their spine and skeleton, we can help them to move better and to feel more comfortable when sleeping at night. This enables them to more easily enter into the different stages of sleep. We can help improve their balance and increase their fine motor skills. We can provide simple stretches and exercises that will help speed up their recovery. Chiropractic adjustments also work well with physical therapy. Many kids and teens tell us that they feel much more relaxed after their chiropractic treatments.
When searching for the right chiropractor for your child, it is important to find a chiropractic practitioner who has years of experience in treating kids with exceptionalities and special needs. It’s best if you use word-of-mouth recommendations rather than simply looking for generic pictures of children on the doctor’s website. The chiropractor’s office should be kid-friendly and display at least a couple clean toys. Finding the right chiropractor can make a great difference with your child’s progress and recovery.