Sunday, April 18, 2010

Bandaids--and Shots

Like most kids, D.V. shelter kids love bandaids. During the play time after the "work" part of group, my small groups are allowed to color,draw,or choose whatever toy, game,or socializing (if they're teens)they want to do.

One of my toys is a doctor kit with the usual parts--stethoscope,small pan,(big)needle,BP monitor, mouth "mirror",tweezers,scalpel and my addition:regular bandaids.

The kids that choose to play with the doctor kit week after week usually go through a series of changes in the way they use it. If they pick the stethoscope, they usually "listen" to their heart, then a friend's heart, then mine. The stethoscope requires intimacy, something that can cause anxiety in a child whose experiences don't foster trust in adults. That's why I am usually the last to be "checked."

Giving someone a needle usually goes in the other direction--I get it first, as it is an aggressive tool and a symbol of power and pain.I beg them not to give me a "shot," tell them I hate and fear needles. Naturally, this results in my receiving a slew of them, and their glee at the pain they administer. This is,IMO, not one bit surprising in any child, as they see adults as powerful. It is especially to be expected, though, in children who have had so little control over violence in their own homes.

Most interesting to me, though is what happens with bandaids.

I've always had bandaids and a doctor kit in my play arsenal, both in clinical social work jobs and as a school social worker. Some kids I've worked with used bandaids the way shelter kids do, but not as compulsively or as consistently.

Bandaids are a symbol of care as well as injury. The kids almost always start by putting bandaids on me--usually hand, wrist or arm. They look for "boo boos," ask "What happened?." I tell them I banged my hand or was careless cutting vegetables. I say I need to be more careful.

They pat the "injured" area, cover it with a bandaid.Tell me I'm ok now.

Ironically, I have never been abused by a boyfriend or my husband. I truly am careless, move too fast,and do injure myself on a regular basis.
But unless the child has been coming to group for a couple months, I doubt s/he believes me when I say I hurt myself. Why should they? They may have often seen their moms blame themselves for an injury inflicted by an abusive partner.

After they "fix" me, they start taking care of their friends who happily accept bandaids and pats. Finally, usually after a few weeks, they start putting bandaids on themselves.

This is, after all, what they need to do, for if they don't love and take care of themselves, they are at significant risk for violent relationships as teens and adults.

That's why I'll never run out of bandaids. They are too important.

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