All posts by CHOC

Talking to children about tragic events

When it comes to discussing tragedy with young children, honesty might not always be the best policy, a CHOC psychologist says.

“Shielding them from any exposure should always be the first effort,” Dr. Mery Taylor says. “Children can be unpredictable about how they may respond to information, and even events far away can trigger a traumatic stress response.”

Children, as well as adults, can suffer affects from watching a traumatic event unfold on TV or even hearing about it. Given the potential short- and long-term consequences of coping with a trauma, parents should consider the proximity of the event and whether the child truly must know about specific details of the event.

What is trauma?

  • Trauma is a shocking, scary or dangerous experience that leads to a strong feeling of sadness, stress or worry.
  • Traumas can be natural disasters, like a hurricane or earthquake, or a life event, like the sudden loss of a loved one. They can also be caused by others. For example, as in abuse, car accident, crime or a terrorist attack.
  • Traumas can result from direct experience, witnessing, or repeated or intense exposure to the trauma (i.e., TV or overhead conversations).

Experiencing a traumatic event is shocking and can make you fear for your safety and can contribute to traumatic stress symptoms.

Traumatic stress symptoms can include:

  • Being easily upset or angry
  • Feeling anxious, jumpy or confused
  • Being irritable or uncooperative
  • Feeling empty or numb

Sometimes, shielding children from tragic events can be difficult. Dr. Taylor recommends that parents who are considering discussing a tragedy or trauma with a child consider some other factors:

  • Proximity of the event: When a tragedy occurs close to home, it may be more difficult to control what the child might see or hear. And even if unaware, children still might sense tension and anxiety from adults around them.
  • Other caregivers: Together, discuss your concerns about what and how you might share about an event with your child. Come up with a consensus so that those close to the child on the same page and presenting a consistent message. Consider what the school or teachers may relay to the student body. Often, a school district may send out a position statement on tragedies affecting the community. How might this impact what you share with your child?
  • Siblings and older peers: If your young child is around much older children, consider the likelihood that she may hear something frightening. In these cases, it may be helpful to inoculate her by going ahead and giving her some minimal information while keeping her developmental age in mind. You can always go back and answer more questions as they come. It is not recommended to ask an older child (8 to 12 years old) to not talk about the event with their younger sibling. This would likely only pique their curiosity.
  • Your child’s personality: All children are different. You know your child best. Is she likely to be scared by tragic news more than most children? Or is she the kid who would likely go explain the event to her class? Let her personality help guide your decision.
  • Media: School, other children, television, computers and smartphones may lead to your children knowing more than you think. Be sure to ask about their day; let them know you are there for them; and notice changes in behavior or mood that might be an indication that they may have heard something that doesn’t make sense in their world.

We understand that as the caretaker of a child, it can be stressful to make decisions about relaying tragic news to them. Here are more quick tips for parents on talking to children about traumatic events:

Quick tips for parents

  • Children need comforting and frequent reassurance of their safety.
  • Let your child lead the discussion and only answer questions that they ask.
  • Be honest and open about the tragedy or disaster using age-appropriate language. This may take the form of very simple and concise language.
  • Encourage children to express their feelings through talking, drawing or playing.
  • Try to maintain your daily routines as much as possible.
  • Monitor your own anxiety and reactions to the event. Ensure you are practicing self-care.
  • Emphasize what people are doing to help others impacted by the tragedy.

Preschool-aged children

  • Reassure young children that they’re safe. Provide extra comfort and contact by discussing the child’s fears at night, telephoning during the day, and providing extra physical comfort.
  • Get a better understanding of a child’s feelings about the tragedy. Discuss the events with them and find out their fears and concerns. Answer all questions they may ask and provide them loving comfort and care.
  • Structure children’s play so that it remains constructive, serving as an outlet for them to express fear or anger.

Grade school-aged children

  • Answer questions in clear and simple language.
  • False reassurance does not help this age group. Don’t say that tragedies will never happen again; children know this isn’t true. Instead, remind children that tragedies are rare, and say “You’re safe now, and I’ll always try to protect you,” or “Adults are working very hard to make things safe.”
  • Children’s fears often worsen around bedtime, so stay until the child falls asleep so she feels protected.
  • Monitor children’s media viewing. Images of the tragedy are extremely frightening to children, so consider significantly limiting the amount of media coverage they see.
  • Allow children to express themselves through play or drawing, and then talk to them about it. This gives you the chance to “retell” the ending of the game or the story they have expressed in pictures with an emphasis on personal safety.
  • Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.” Part of keeping discussion of the tragedy open and honest is not being afraid to say you don’t know how to answer a child’s question. When this happens, explain to your child that tragedies cause feelings that even adults have trouble dealing with. Temper this by explaining that adults will still always work hard to keep children safe and secure.

  Adolescents

  • Adolescents may try to downplay their worries, so encourage them to work out their concerns about the tragedy.
  • Children with prior trauma or existing emotional problems such as depression may require careful supervision and additional support.
  • Monitor their media exposure to the event and information they receive online.
  • Adolescents may turn to their friends for support. Encourage friends and families to get together – virtually if need be – and discuss the event to allay fears.

Should parents opt to discuss tragic events with children, or should the child already be aware of the circumstances, Mental Health America and National Child Traumatic Stress Network offer more ways parents can talk to their children about tragedy-related anxiety and help them cope.

If you think your child would benefit from speaking to a pediatric mental health professional, ask your pediatrician for a referral to a pediatric psychologist.

This article was updated Jan. 15, 2021.

Related posts:

Fiber for kids: High fiber recipes for kids

By Christina Sharkey, clinical dietitian at CHOC

Adequate and proper nutrition is important for a child’s normal growth and development and since January is National Fiber Focus month, this is a great time to make sure that you and your family are getting enough fiber in your diet. Fiber is a beneficial part of our diet because it helps keep us full longer, control blood sugar levels, reduce cholesterol and promotes regular bowel movements.

Incorporating fiber in your child’s diet: How much fiber does your child need?

Here’s how much fiber your children should be eating every day:

Age Male Female
1-3 years 14 grams 14 grams
4-8 years 19.6 grams 16.8 grams
9-13 years 25.2 grams 22.4 grams
14-18 years 30.8 grams 25.2 grams

Source: The Institute of Medicine, based on 14gm/1000 calories/day (for age)

High-fiber foods for kids

As a parent, you may be concerned that your child isn’t getting enough fiber. Offering foods that are naturally high in fiber makes it easy to reach the recommended intakes.

Foods that are naturally high in fiber include:

  • fruits
  • vegetables
  • whole grains
  • legumes

High-fiber snacks for kids

Some examples of snacks and other foods that are high in fiber include:

Grains

Food Serving Amount of fiber
Cooked oatmeal 1 cup 4 grams
Cooked brown rice 1 cup 3 grams, vs. just 0.7 grams in white rice
Cooked whole wheat pasta 1 cup 5.5 grams, vs. just 2.5 grams in regular pasta
Air popped popcorn 3 cups 3.5 grams

 

Legumes and nuts

Food Serving Amount of fiber
Cooked kidney beans, lentils or black beans ½ cup 6.5-7.5 grams
Cooked edamame ½ cup 4 grams
Almonds 1 ounce 3 grams

 

Vegetables

Food Serving Amount of fiber
Cooked broccoli 1 cup 4 grams
Avocado ½ of a piece 5 grams
Raw jicama ½ cup 3 grams

 

Fruit

Food Serving Amount of fiber
Raw raspberries or blackberries ½ cup 4 grams
Raw pear 1 piece 5.5 grams
Raw orange 1 piece 3.7 grams
Raw banana 1 piece 3.3 grams
Raw medium apple 1 piece 4.8 grams

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture

How to increase fiber in your child’s diet

If you’re looking for more ways to increase the amount of fiber in your child’s diet, here are some tips:

  • Leave the skins on fruits and vegetables.
  • Use whole wheat flour in place of white flour.
  • Replace white bread and cereals with whole grain options. Look for whole wheat, rye, oats or bran on the ingredient list.
  • Add fruit to whole grain cold or hot cereals.
  • Add fruit, nuts or whole grain granola to yogurt.
  • Add vegetables to scrambled eggs, omelets or pasta.
  • Aim to offer whole grains that have at least 3 grams of fiber per serving.
  • Foods that are labeled as a “good source of fiber” have at least 2.5 grams of fiber per serving. If you’re not sure how to read nutrition labels in the products you buy, check out this guide.
  • Choose whole fruit instead of juice.
  • Include fruit and vegetables with every meal. Aim for 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
  • Put veggies, like lettuce, tomato or avocado, on sandwiches.
  • Add beans to soups and salads.
  • Add bran to baked goods.
  • Offer air-popped popcorn, whole-grain crackers, fruit, or vegetables as healthy snack options.

High-fiber recipes for kids

Besides just adding fruits and vegetables to your meals and snacks, consider trying these fun high-fiber snacks and recipe ideas. Many of these can be made in advance for busy days.

Chia Pudding

Yield: 4 servings

Fiber: 6 grams/serving

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of vanilla-flavored unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 cup of plain low-fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup, plus optional 4 teaspoons for serving
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Kosher salt
  • ¼ cup Chia seeds
  • 1-pint strawberries, hulled and chopped
  • ¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, gently whist the almond milk, yogurt, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, the vanilla, and 1/8 teaspoon of salt until just blended. Whisk in the chia seeds; let stand 30 minutes. Stir to distribute the seeds if they have settled. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  2. The next day, in a medium bowl, toss the berries with the remaining 4 teaspoons of maple syrup. Mix in the almonds.
  3. Spoon the pudding into four bowls or glasses; mound the berry mixture on top and serve.

Recipe via Food Network

Blueberry Morning Glory Baked Oatmeal

This baked oatmeal recipe includes lots of fiber and can be made in advance for busy mornings!

Yield: 1 pan (6 servings)

Fiber: 6 grams/serving

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 medium apple, grated
  • 1 medium carrot, grated
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups milk of your choice (I used almond milk)
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries, divided. If using frozen berries thaw them slightly.
  • 1/4 cup pecan pieces for topping, optional
  • 1/3 cup coconut flakes for topping, optional

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease an 8×8 – inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the oats, coconut, apple, carrot, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
  3. Whisk together the milk, maple syrup, egg and vanilla in a small bowl. Set aside.
  4. Arrange 1/2 cup of the blueberries along the bottom of the baking dish. Pour the oat mixture over the top of the blueberries evenly. Pour the milk mixture over the top of the oat mixture as evenly as possible. Tap the baking dish on the counter a couple of times to evenly distribute.
  5. Top the oatmeal with the pecans, remaining blueberries and coconut flakes.
  6. Bake 35-45 minutes or until golden brown and set. Cool on a wire rack and serve.

Recipe courtesy of Flavor the Moments

Roasted Chickpeas

If you are looking for something crunchy, a great high fiber snack is roasted chickpeas. Adding different flavorings can add some variety, and this is a great way to replace chips.

Yield: 6 servings

Fiber: 6.5 grams/serving

Ingredients:

Chickpeas:

  • Three 15-ounce cans of chickpeas
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil (I use avocado oil)

Taco Seasoning:

  • 3/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon granulated onion
  • Kosher salt

Vinegar-Lime Seasoning:

  • 2 teaspoons distilled vinegar
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • Kosher salt

Onion-Garlic Seasoning:

  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon granulated onion
  • Kosher salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Put a few layers of paper towels on your work surface. Strain and rinse the chickpeas in a strainer, then shake off as much water as possible. Transfer them to the layer of paper towels, top with more paper towels and pat them gently and roll them around a bit to dry. Discard any papery skins that have peeled off or are about to peel off. Slide the chickpeas onto a large, rimmed baking sheet and let stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Roast the chickpeas, stirring them occasionally to keep them from burning in spots, until a little shriveled and crispy, about 45 minutes. Start checking them at around 35 minutes to make sure they are not burning.
  4. Meanwhile, make the seasoning mixes. For the Taco Seasoning: Mix the chili powder, coriander, cumin, granulated garlic and onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a small bowl.
  5. For the Vinegar-Lime Seasoning: Mix the vinegar, lime zest and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a small bowl.
  6. For the Onion-Garlic Seasoning: Mix the granulated garlic and onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a small bowl.
  7. When the chickpeas are done, divide them evenly among three medium bowls. Toss each batch with 1 tablespoon of the oil, then toss 1 batch with each of the seasoning mixes.
  8. Return the chickpeas to the baking sheet, keeping each batch separate. Roast them for three minutes, just to cook the seasonings slightly. Let cool completely on the pan on a rack, about 30 minutes, then transfer to airtight containers. The chickpeas will keep for one day and will soften slightly as they sit.

Recipe courtesy of Food Network

Hearty Navy Bean Soup with Ham

This homemade soup recipe, from my own grandmother, has a hearty amount of fiber. Pairing this with warm whole-wheat bread and roasted carrots is perfect.

Yields: 6 Servings

Fiber: 8 grams/serving

Ingredients:

  • ½ pound navy beans, washed well
  • Ham bone and any small bits of leftover ham
  • 1 medium yellow onion chopped and sautéed in 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¾ cup shredded raw russet potatoes
  • ¾ cup chopped celery and ¼ cup chopped celery leaves
  • About 2 teaspoons of salt, depending on amount of ham used
  • ¼ teaspoons ground black pepper
  • ½ cup drained tomatoes (fresh or canned) cut into medium size pieces
  • ½ cup fresh green onion tops

*Note: the tomatoes and scallions may be omitted, but they help add some color and vegetables to the soup!

Directions:

  1. Soak the navy beans with 6 cups of warm water. Let stand overnight.
  2. The next day, pour beans and water in which they were soaked into a large pot. Add more water if needed to cover the ham bone.
  3. Combine all ingredients except for tomatoes and green onion tops.
  4. Cook soup in a covered pot over low heat for about 1.5-2 hours or until the beans are very soft.
  5. If using a ham bone, pull out bone and allow to cool briefly before removing any remaining ham bits and cutting into bite size pieces. Add the ham back to the soup and discard the bone.
  6. During last 10 minutes of cooking, add tomatoes and green onions and cook slowly uncovered.
  7. When done, taste, and season further if necessary.
  8. If soup appears thick, add a little water or stock of your choice. If soup appears thin, cook uncovered for a few minutes.

Recipe courtesy of CHOC dietitian Christina Sharkey’s grandmother

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos

Try a twist on tacos by swapping your typical meat for a plant-based protein that is high in fiber.

Yield: 4-6 servings

Fiber: 7-10 grams/serving

Ingredients:

Roasted Sweet Potatoes:

  • 1-2 medium sweet potatoes, cut into ½-inch cubes (~2 cups cubed)
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin

Beans:

  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil
  • ½ medium yellow onion, diced
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, stemmed, seeded and minced
  • 1 15-ounce can low sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
  • Apple cider vinegar or water, as needed

Serve with:

  • 10-12 tortillas
  • ½ cup tomatillo salsa verde
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Lime wedges
  • ¼ cup crumbled cotija cheese (can substitute with parmesan or feta cheese)

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a medium bowl, toss the sweet potatoes, 2 tablespoons oil, salt, cumin and chili powder. Spread on a baking sheet in an even layer. Roast for 15 minutes, then use a spatula to flip the potatoes over. Roast for another 15 minutes or until sweet potatoes and have puffed up and have crisp, roasted edges.
  3. While the sweet potatoes are roasting, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a medium pan over medium heat. Add the onions and ½ teaspoon salt and sauté until soft and translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and jalapeno, and sauté for 2 more minutes. Fold in the beans and cook. Stir occasionally until the beans are soft and seasoned, about 10-15 minutes. If beans seem dry or bottom of pan starts to sizzle, add a splash of apple cider vinegar or water as needed. Taste and season as needed.
  4. Warm the tortillas.
  5. Serve the tacos. Layer the tacos with sweet potatoes and black beans. Serve with avocado slices, minced cilantro and cheese.

Recipe courtesy of Simply Recipes

Get important nutrition tips like these sent straight to your inbox

Kids Health, delivered monthly, offers “healthful” information for parents.

Related posts:

  • Healthy snack ideas for the whole family
    By Kelsey Childs, clinical dietitian at CHOC Does it seem like your children are snacking all the time? Do you find yourself snacking more during the pandemic as you work from ...
  • Planning for a smaller Thanksgiving this year
    By Stephanie Chang, clinical dietitian at CHOC  Thanksgiving is just around the corner and many of us are thinking about what we’re going to do for Thanksgiving 2020. You might be ...
  • The benefits of adding chickpeas to your family’s diet
    By Laura Clapper, registered dietitian at CHOC  Incorporating chickpeas – also known as garbanzo beans – a staple ingredient in hummus, into your family’s diet can result in a variety of ...

 

Ringing in the new year cancer-free

Skinnier arms and legs and exhaustion to the point of taking naps. These were the initial signs that left Jamie wondering if there was something wrong with her 5-year-old son, Jacob. Weeks later, the most alarming sign appeared: blood clots in his urine. 

 Jacob was taken to his local pediatrician and it was there a large lump on his lower left abdomen was discovered. Knowing it was something much more serious, Jacob’s pediatrician immediately sent Jacob and his family to CHOC at Mission Hospital. 

 “Our world was changed” 

When Jacob arrived, an X-Ray and a CT scan were ordered to further observe the lump on his abdomen. The results showed a tumor on his left kidney and over 30 small tumors growing on his lungs. DrKenneth Kwon, an emergency medicine specialist, delivered the news that Jacob has Wilms tumor  type of kidney cancer commonly found in young children. Jacob’s cancer was stage 4 and had spread to his lungs. 

“We were devastated,”  Jamie recalls“In just a few hours, our world was changed. 

Jacob was transported via ambulance to the Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC Hospital in Orange. Instead of feeling scared or worried, Jacob enjoyed watching Toy Story during the journey alongside his newly acquired rocket ship balloon and stuffed monkey. These small comforts during an anxious situation are one thing that helps differentiate a pediatric hospital. 

 The plan 

“The first time coming to CHOC was extremely difficult,”  Jamie says. “But the nurses and staff could tell we were struggling with the news and they did everything they could to make us feel comfortable. They also explained everything that was happening to Jacob in a way that we could understand.” 

CHOC patient Jacob and his family
Jacob and his family

Dr. Josephine HaDuonga CHOC pediatric oncologist, recommended chemotherapy for six weeks and then re-evaluating the growth of the tumor. Jacob came to CHOC’s Dhont Family Foundation Outpatient Infusion Center once a week to receive his initial chemotherapy. Though the process was hard and challenging, especially during a pandemic, Jacob put on a brave face every time he came in. He eventually created bonds with his child life specialist, nurses in the clinic and Dr. Agnes Horvath, a pediatric oncologist/hematologist at CHOC. 

After the initial six weeks, chemotherapy had shrunk the tumor on his kidney by almost 50%The rest of the tumor could be removed by surgery. 

CHOC patient Jacob during cancer treatment
Jacob flashes a smile behind his mask, as he plays on a tablet in CHOC’s outpatient infusion center.

“The day of surgery was extremely tough on my husband and I,” Jamie says. “Having to experience your young child go through something like this is already hard, but to add a pandemic on top was even harder. However, seeing Jacob’s resilience was what got us all through it.” 

 In the spring, Dr. Peter Yua CHOC pediatric general and thoracic surgeon, successfully removed the rest of the tumor on Jacob’s kidney. However, Jacob was not in the clear just yet; there were still the small tumors on his lungs that needed to be tackled. 

CHOC patient Jacob and Dr. Yu
Jacob and Dr. Peter Yu give a thumbs up on surgery day

For the next 31 weeks, Jacob underwent stronger chemotherapy five days a week as well as radiation that targeted the tumors on his lungs. During that time, there were many trips to the hospital for scans, labs, appointments and a few inpatient staysThere were hard and tough days, but Jacob remembers the simple moments of receiving toys from the Cherese Mari Laulhere Child Life Department and getting his favorite snacks.  

“In those months, we leaned heavily on our family, friends, faith and the expertise of our oncology team,” Jamie says. “They are the ones who helped us see the light.” 

 Bright, ringing moment 

Towards the end of summer, Jacob received one of his last CT scans. The only items that showed were two small spots on his lungs that doctors deemed to be scar tissue. 

Jacob was declared cancer-free. 

A few short days later, Jacob was able to participate in a special tradition to help celebrate the news: ringing the bell. 

CHOC patient Jacob and Dr. Josephine HaDuong
Jacob and Dr. Josephine HaDuong on bell-ringing day

Each patient who completes their last chemotherapy treatment at CHOC is cheered on by nurses, doctors and staff, and has an opportunity to ring a bell to signify the end of a long journey. The plaque on the bell reads: 

 Ring this bell, three times well. 

Its toll to clearly say, my treatment is done, this course is done, and I’m on my way! 

“It was an emotional moment for the whole family,” Jamie says. “We have all been waiting for this day! Jacob could not stop smiling.” 

Since that moment, Jacob has now celebrated his 6th birthday. He’s excited to play sports again and hopefully start school in January. 

“Even though it was an extremely tough journey, there is good that came out of it,” Jamie says. “Jacob knows he’s strong and brave, and we couldn’t be prouder of him.” 

Learn more about the Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC Children's

Related posts:

Window falls and children: Lauren’s story

With a New Year’s Eve party a few hours away, Ruth Chi sent her 5-year-old daughter, Lauren, upstairs for a quick nap to ensure she’d have the energy needed later to ring in 2018.

Ruth had just turned her attention back to party prep in the kitchen when she heard yelling upstairs. Suddenly, her eldest son ran past her and into the adjacent backyard.

Lauren had fallen from her second-story window and landed on the concrete patio below. Her brother cradled her in his arms.

“I ran outside the screen door and saw my son hugging Lauren, who was on the ground,” Ruth says.

Crying only slightly, Lauren seemed miraculously unharmed. Ruth carried her daughter inside and examined her body from head to toe. She didn’t see any blood or notice any obviously broken bones. Lauren could understand her mother’s instructions, was responsive and could speak.

The only thing amiss that Ruth noticed were faint red marks on the side of Lauren’s body and a small bump on the right side of her head. Not wanting to take a chance, Ruth brought her daughter to closest emergency room despite Lauren’s protests that she might miss the party.

After a few tests and just 20 minutes or so, the team at the hospital prepared the family to be brought by ambulance to CHOC Hospital’s level II pediatric trauma center. Critically injured children from across the region are transported and transferred to CHOC for the pediatric expertise only a children’s hospital can provide. CHOC’s trained trauma team cares for children and their unique physiological, anatomical and emotional needs with protocols and equipment designed for pediatric patients.

At CHOC, Lauren and Ruth were met by a team of experts who performed more tests and scans. Lauren was the 22nd patient to be treated at CHOC that year for having fallen from a window. The following year, CHOC would go on to see 15 such patients, and in 2019, an additional 24 patients. And in the first 10 months of 2020, CHOC has treated 18 patients who tumbled from a window, says Amy Waunch, CHOC’s trauma program manager.

The no. 1 reason why children fall from windows is furniture placed below, Amy says – and that is exactly what happened with Lauren.

With warm weather a near constant in Southern California, Lauren opened her locked bedroom window. The curious 5-year-old climbed atop her bed and pushed her head against the window screen to survey a nearby park.

The window had a safety mechanism in place to prevent it from being opened too wide, but children can slip through gaps any wider than 4 inches, Amy says.

All those factors, combined with Lauren’s size and strength, allowed her to push through the screen and plummet out the window and onto the ground.

The most common injuries resulting from a window fall treated at CHOC are head injuries like skull fractures and intracranial bleeding, followed by extremity fractures, Amy says.

Lauren, however, seemed just fine. She and her mother passed the time waiting for test results by talking and playing games.

But the family received sobering news at about 9 p.m. that night, when Lauren was diagnosed with an epidural hematoma, a type of traumatic brain injury when blood builds up between the outer membrane of the brain and the skull. This can create pressure on the brain’s tissue and can be deadly.

Lauren would need surgery right away, CHOC experts told the family, who quickly agreed. Lauren was taken to the operating room.

After about an hour, Ruth and her husband were reunited with Lauren in the post-anesthesia care unit.

“She responded well when we talked to her,” Ruth recalls.

After a three-day stay at CHOC’s main hospital campus, Lauren and her family headed home.

After several neurosurgery follow-up appointments, Lauren began treatment with pediatric neurologist Dr. Sharief Taraman. Additionally, Lauren underwent neuropsychologic assessment to determine whether the injury affected her cognitive function.

Today, three years later, Lauren is a happy and healthy 8-year-old with no signs that she survived a near fatal accident. In fact, Ruth even needs to remind her fearless daughter to be careful sometimes.

And she’s not stopping with reminders. The furniture has been rearranged in Lauren’s room, and Ruth continues to caution her friends about the dangers of children and window falls.

“Never say never, I tell people,” Ruth says. “I never would have thought this would happen to me or my family or my daughter. It’s almost impossible. Well, it happens.”

Learn more about CHOC's pediatric trauma services

Related posts:

Celebrating winter holidays during COVID

With the holiday season in full swing, and COVID-19 cases rising both in our community and around the country, families are making plans to observe their favorite traditions in a much different way than in years past. CHOC experts provide the following recommendations for how to celebrate the winter holidays safely amid COVID-19.

“The holiday season – filled with celebrations and family traditions – can be such a magical time for kids. We want all families to enjoy quality, happy time together, but it’s essential that these celebrations are done in a safe way,” says Melanie Patterson, CHOC’s vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer. “We understand some people are experiencing “COVID fatigue” after months of juggling remote learning, working from home and other measures in place in our communities. But now is the time to be as vigilant as ever in doing our part to curb the spread of COVID-19.”

These recommendations are meant to supplement, rather than replace, any local or statewide regulations.

Celebrate with your household

The safest way to celebrate the holidays this year is to celebrate with people in your own household. Travel and gatherings with family and friends outside your household can increase your chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu.

Celebrate virtually with others

Use technology such as FaceTime, Zoom or Skype to enjoy a holiday meal or gift exchange with loved ones who don’t live in your household. Consider sharing recipes between family members and friends ahead of time, and cooking each of your meals together over video chat. Even Santa Claus is offering virtual visits this year!

Children can also use video chat to do a festive craft project with cousins and friends outside their household.

Set up a virtual cookie decorating or gingerbread house building party with neighbors, friends or loved ones from outside your household.

Or, have a virtual, interactive watch party for your favorite holiday movie using Netflix Party or Disney+’s GroupWatch. These services allow you to synchronize your show or movie with friends and family, and chat while you’re watching.

Celebrating virtually is especially important if you are celebrating with family members over the age of 65, or those who are immunocompromised and have underlying conditions that put them at greater risk of complications from COVID-19.

You can also make crafts or cookies as a family and deliver them to neighbors, friends and family in a safe way, such as leaving them on their doorstep.

Festive outdoor celebrations

As temperatures begin to dip in Southern California, be sure to dress warmly before engaging in any physically distant outdoor activities. Consider a nature scavenger hunt, hiking or taking a drive through a neighborhood near you that is decked out in holiday lights and décor.

Holiday travel

Traveling can increase your chance of getting or spreading COVID-19. Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and your family.

The California Department of Public Health issued a travel advisory Nov. 13, urging visitors to California or residents returning home from non-essential travel to self-quarantine for 14 days and limit their interactions to their immediate household, in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. California also announced on Dec. 3 regional stay-at-home orders, which can be triggered by a region’s intensive care unit (ICU) bed capacity falling below 15%. Read more about this regional stay-at-home order, including how it impacts travel.

Add a flu shot to your to-do list

Your flu shot is more important than ever this year. Influenza and COVID-19 can have over-lapping symptoms. They also utilize the same resources, including personal protective equipment (PPE), hospital beds and equipment. Protecting yourself – and your family – from the flu can help limit a potential strain on these resources. Learn more about the importance of this year’s influenza vaccine.

Navigating holiday disappointment

By this point in the COVID-19 pandemic, many children have experienced disappointment about missing out on birthday parties, family vacations or special occasions they had been looking forward to. If your child or teen feels disappointed right now over missed holiday celebrations, this article from a CHOC pediatric psychologist can help.

Get more information on Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Related posts: