5 Tips for Comforting Your Child When They Need Stitches

On Monday, I got the dreaded phone call from my kids’ school.

At first, I wasn’t concerned because last week, I also got a phone call (along with many other calls in the past few years). Last week, it was just a call informing me that my son fell and bumped his head, but he was fine.

Monday, however, was different.

Monday, it WAS the dreaded call. It was….
“Hello, this is the school calling. Your son was playing at recess and he got knocked over and cut his chin on the ice. We think you should come over as quickly as possible.”

Frankly, that is all I heard. I quickly grabbed some essentials (a clean Norwex Envirocloth, a juice box, a granola bar and a back up battery pack for my phone) and headed over to the school to assess the situation.

The cut was really bad, so I called the doctor’s office to ensure that they would be able to give him stitches if he needed them and they reassured me that they could.

After spending close to an hour at the doctor’s office, it was apparent that we needed to take him to the hospital instead. Oh, did I mention that on Monday, my daughter was also home sick? She was such a good big sister and a trooper throughout this whole experience.

We waited for a couple of hours at the hospital. It was a long wait and my son was extremely anxious, but there wasn’t much I could do other than distract him. He was so brave and I was a proud (and scared) Mom.

The doctor put a numbing gel on my son’s chin and after half an hour, he came back to give him 4 painless stitches. The process really was a piece of cake, once we had my son’s trust that it wouldn’t hurt and that we needed his cooperation to lie still for the doctor.

In the end, I learned that if my children ever need stitches again, we will go straight to the hospital. I love my family doctor, but she wasn’t prepared for a child needing stitches and the situation there only ramped up my son’s anxiety.

While I don’t wish stitches on anyone, many people throughout this process told me that this was just a rite of passage as a parent. A child needing stitches is more common than I realized. It’s amazing all of the stories that come out when you experience something like this.
Comforting Your Child When They Need Stitches
One of the key things to helping your child stay calm is to be calm yourself. You may have to practice some of the following relaxation techniques yourself in order to stay calm for your child. Children sense fear and panic in others, so do your best to push those thoughts out of your mind and focus on keeping your child calm and comfortable.

5 Tips for Comforting Your Child When They Need Stitches

  1. Distraction – this is key as if you can successfully distract your child during the procedure, it will likely be done before they even realize it began!
  2. Relaxation – you can practice various deep and slow breathing techniques (big belly breathing, blowing pretend bubbles with your mouth, blow away scary feelings) as well as visualizing techniques (e.g. close your eyes and pretend you are on a beach). If your child enjoys listening to music, consider allowing them to plugin and listen for a while to help stay calm.
  3. Questioning and Games – Asking your child a lot of questions (favourite foods, activities etc. OR what would you do if…) will help to pass the waiting time AND provide a distraction as well. You can also try playing games like Eye Spy or a visual scavenger hunt.
  4. Honesty – If something is going to hurt, be honest with them, but keep the answer brief and minimal. Also, focus on what you will do AFTER the procedure is complete (e.g. have your child choose what dinner will be that night OR have a family movie night).
  5. Be An Advocate – Ask the doctor or hospital if they have a numbing gel that they can apply before the procedure to help your child not feel any discomfort.

Has your child ever had to get stitches?

What was your experience?

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20 Responses to 5 Tips for Comforting Your Child When They Need Stitches

  1. kathy downey says:

    These are excellent tips for parents,I remember only to well,when my daughter was 3 she was dancing around waiting for her bath and fell on the floor there was so much blood we did not know where the cut was,wiping it away it was her chin,long story short she hit her chin bone and cut the flesh right across which took 5 stitches to close it up.Hope your son is feeling better

  2. Richard Hicks says:

    Very good advice for any parent in your circumstance. Glad things turned out ok.

  3. Heidi C. says:

    Great tips. Distraction is really an important tool and can help to reduce the pain involved.

  4. Lee-Ann Sleegers says:

    We were lucky when my daughter needed stitches in 2012 because we were able to go to Children’s Hospital of Southwestern Ontario and use the services of one of the child life specialist. Unfortunately they didn’t apply enough numbing gel and when the third stitch went in she screamed. Now won’t go anywhere near a needle!

    • Awww…poor thing! Child Life Specialists are so amazing! I wish there was a budget to have them at every hospital! I did my 4th year placement at the University of Guelph as a Child Life Specialist at the hospital there – what an experience!

  5. elizamatt says:

    yes, several of them have. The worst was when one of my sons (then aged 5) had his finger nearly amputated by a heavy metal garage door which the wind had blown to. Not only was his finger practically hanging off, the bone was fractured too. The orthopaedic surgeon tried to just pull the bone into place but being a radiographer I knew from the Xray taken after that he’d have trouble with the joint. They didn’t really want to operate – the bone was so small they said but in the end they did and though he has a big scar on his finger now he has no trouble moving his finger at all.
    I tend to be quite calm when there’s an emergency and do the right thing, it’s after it’s all over I start shaking 🙂

  6. Joann says:

    Aw, poor little guy. Great tips though. I have a big scar under my chin from when I fell and hit the edge of the bathtub when I was little. My mom still remembers the horror of the stitches. They made her hold me down while I cried.

  7. Lynda Cook says:

    Awe!! hope he’s all well now, my youngest was always hurting herself, she was so accident prone that we spent many times in the hospital, and everytime I was still anxious, but always managed to put on a brave face. At 20 years old my oldest daughter had to go in for major surgery and ended up having close to 60 staples down the front of her stomach, that was the worse for me, but all through the years I have to say both girls were very strong and a whole lot braver than their mother..lol

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  9. Rogue_Femme says:

    Thank you for the tips! I have one not so little guy who is constantly needing medical attention due to sports, skateboarding, or general clumsiness (I was exactly the same way – my poor mother).

  10. Elva Roberts says:

    I like your sensible tips for comforting your child who is getting stitches for a cut. I think the very best one is staying calm yourself. This is so important and the doctor putting on a freezing gel is just as important. One of my girls had to get stitches and it was a traumatic experience for her-many years ago and no freezing gel. She recovered quickly and soon was back to her sunny self.+6+

  11. elizamatt says:

    I vividly remember getting my first stitches, I was on a swing and caught a nail in the fence with my knee which made a pretty deep gouge. I can’t remember much of the process of the actual stitching but I do remember realising why my GP had a red carpet as my precious blood dripped on it!

  12. kathy downey says:

    Thanks for these great tips hope i never have to use them !

  13. JD says:

    We actually had a pretty good experience have it done at the peds. He was more comfortable because he knows his doctor and the office and it’s not as hectic a environment. We know that, at the hospital, we’d just be waiting longer too which would drive both of us nuts. And I have to admit, money was a factor,although a minor one.

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