Your child, their scars, and the future

You might worry about how your child could be affected by their scars in the future. You might also worry about how they might feel about them. In our research, one parent commented:

“I often think about how he will deal with it in the future, especially when trying to form relationships.”

On the internet you can find ‘bloggers’ and ‘vloggers’ who have survived burn-injuries discussing feelings of personal strength. They recognise that they must have had considerable strength to survive the trauma, or that the burn injury forced them to discover strength they never knew they had. When developing this website, parents also said that things do just get better with time.

“It does get better with time. You don’t think it will, but it does.”

The experience of pain, surgery, a change in appearance, and managing new social interactions can all contribute to feelings of strength and self-assuredness. Parents also notice this, reporting that their child’s scars can remind them how brave or strong their child is.

“The scars don't bother me because that’s just who she is. She’s an incredibly strong, brave girl. I never make any effort to cover up her scars.”

Many people who have experienced a burn refer to themselves as ‘survivors’, rather than victims. This demonstrates feelings of achievement and strength to survive their experience. There can also be a sense of pride in accomplishments, however small, following a burn; celebrating these is important.

“My son said he wouldn’t change his scars because they’re part of him.”

Many people with a burn speak about how their injury enabled them to see who their ‘real’ friends were. This can also be true for parents as the traumatic experience, and subsequent support needed, mean that the people who truly care for them surround them. Like many people, you might have also developed stronger connections with some friends and even formed important new relationships with people who you have met since your child’s injury, or even because of it.

Some people talk about feeling as though the burn has enabled them to enhance interpersonal skills, such as empathy, compassion, gratitude and an appreciation of others. Parents can find this too.

“My utter admiration for my son who was so brave throughout the whole experience, never let it bother him. My complete gratitude for the staff at the hospital and the NHS.”

For others, the burn injury made them less judgemental or encouraged them to help others. We saw this in the responses from some parents who contributed to this website - their decision to participate in the research was motivated by their desire to help others.

“Research, making things better is crucial. It really is important. It’s always going to be part of our lives. We came to terms with it real quickly and other people might not. We want to help them if we can.”

The experience of a burn injury can change people's’ priorities, often for the better, such as making more time for loved ones. Another priority often mentioned is “living life to the full” with the intention to seize every opportunity. Appreciation of the smaller things in life is also clear. For burn survivors and their parents, it is common to hear expressions of gratitude for what they do have (as opposed to what they don’t have), however small, particularly in relation to their body.

“The scars will always be a reminder of what happened. I’m just glad he’s ok though, it easily could have turned out completely different.”

During the research that led to the development of this website, some parents mentioned that “it may have helped to have a parent to share their experience of what the future holds and how they dealt with their feelings.” Talking to others who have been there before can help to provide parents with “more peace of mind and a little bit more confidence to not worry, to not be over-anxious about the future.” The most important message parents were seeking was that “it does get better with time.” However, the thought of talking to someone else can also be anxiety provoking. One parent described her concerns about attending a burns camp for the first time.

“I was really nervous about going [to a burn camp]. I think it’s really hard for a parent to make the decision to join and it would be really nice to have known how other parents benefited because it’s was an amazing experience but I was so scared about going in, taking the kids in. ‘Would it be lots of people just talking about burns?’ and ‘would it make it worse for my daughter?’ I didn't actually know how to react when I got there because you didn't know whether to talk about the accident or not. But it was really, really good. I think the best couple of things that came out of that [burn camp] in terms of better support was being able to share information and experiences with parents. It was amazing in that room.”

To find out where your local burns club or camp is, and how to contact them, click here.

If you have concerns about the future health and well-being of your child because of their scars then it might help to talk to someone. Click here to see where you can access support.

See some young people, and their parents, talk about their experiences of treatment and living with scars

A video series has been created with Australian children and their parents at Queensland Children’s Hospital, with the support of the Children’s Hospital Foundation. The videos cover their experiences of coping with treatment, returning to daily life (including school and work), negotiating the future, and managing the reactions of others. You might find that some aspects of the videos make you laugh and others might be upsetting. If you find these accounts too upsetting, please leave the website and distract yourself until you feel better. Click here to watch their videos.