Addressing Body Image Issues
Body image issues are common in children after burns. They may feel grief or sadness about changes in their appearance and physical abilities, as well as experience anxiety in social settings. Caregivers sometimes have these same concerns for their children. Most children adapt well to the changes in their body.
Support from others and your child’s willingness to learn new social skills will help your child develop acceptance of the new norm and gain more confidence over time.
Unfortunately, some children who have been burned or injured do get teased or are made to feel uncomfortable. To feel more confident, have a plan to handle teasing, stares or questions.
Tips to handle stares, questions or teasing:
- Make eye contact, stand up straight and confident, and use a firm, but kind tone of voice to address the staring person directly and say, “Please do not stare at me.”
- In the case of teasing, use “I” statements such as “I want you to stop staring at me.”
- Use humor or sarcasm to diffuse the situation. If someone is staring, say “Do I have something on my face?” For teasing, shrug your shoulders and say, “You may be right.” Or say “Thank you for the compliment!” or “You are so nice to say that.”
- Rehearse an answer to the question “What happened?” ahead of time. You can plan a shorter answer for strangers and a longer answer for friends or others you want to share the story with. Example: “Hi, I’m (name). I got burned (in a house fire, by a firepit, in a car wreck), but I am doing much better now.”
- Saying “thank you” helps end the line of questioning. Then, redirect the attention back to the person with an open-ended question such as “I heard you had fun plans for summer vacation. Tell me what you’re doing.”
- If you don’t want to answer a question or talk about what happened, simply say “I’d rather not talk about it. Thank you for your concern.”
- Remind yourself that others are often curious and do not mean to tease or be rude.
- Participate in school and the community. It may be hard at first, but eventually it will get easier to deal with stares or questions.
- Be proactive. Give your classmates or others in community information before your return to school or other areas in your life, so they can be prepared for any changes in your appearance.
- Ask a friend to walk with you through school halls. A buddy makes a big difference.
- If teasing is frequent, talk to a trusted adult or parent about what is going on.
- Walk away if you feel threatened or the situation is becoming dangerous. Talk to a trusted adult or parent.
- Do not show the teaser you are upset or offer to fight the person.
- Do not always ignore teasing. Have a response prepared.