Here's What To Expect When Your Kid Breaks A Bone (Because They Will Break A Bone)

by Meredith Ethington
ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock

My daughter was the first kid in my family to break a bone. Really, I’m not surprised because she’s always been my little daredevil, and it was just a matter of time before something ridiculous happened.

She was at gymnastics on the trampolines, and although we weren’t there to witness it, she later told me she was doing a donkey kick of sorts and went down and landed with her arms hyperextended. I’m secretly relieved I wasn’t there to see it, or I might have passed out.

Just a few hours later, she was in a splint and a sling, ready for an appointment at our local children’s hospital.

Although I never broke a bone as a child, it seems it’s a rite of passage for most kids — because they love to keep us on our toes and give us little panic attacks, ensuring we’re hyped-up and overprotective. So chances are, it will happen to one of your kids, too, and maybe more than once if you’re super unlucky.

What we didn’t expect is how we would have to rethink everything in her life. She is a pretty independent 10-year-old, and frankly, I was used to her self-reliance too. I’m just grateful it wasn’t her dominant hand because then I would have been on bathroom duty too.

But her life as normal did kind of stop — and so did mine. Piano lessons were out. Gymnastics lessons were out. Luckily, she could still do school work, but we had to rethink how she would shower, and I found myself helping bathe her again, which wasn’t super fun for either of us. She’s got a sensitive head, and apparently like most tweens, isn’t used to my vigorous scrubbing action when washing her hair.

We found out she would only have to wear her cast for three weeks. And parenting can often be super annoying, I’ve found that you really can survive anything for three weeks, except maybe for a lice infestation or norovirus.

So it was mostly a minor inconvenience for us since it was a shorter time period than what I was expecting. But for many families, breaks are more serious, or they do affect the dominant leg or arm, and having a broken bone can become a lot more challenging.

Kids get bored and whiny, homework still has to get done whether you have a working hand or not, and life still goes on. But having a kid with a broken bone can feel like you’re right back in the hell that can be the toddler stage. Except this time, it might be with a big kid who needs help wiping again. Yikes. Here’s what you can expect:

There will be boredom.

Unfortunately for my daughter, we had just gotten a trampoline for Christmas, and it was off-limits. Your kid will complain about being bored, because hello, they do that anyway. Keeping your kid entertained is hard under normal circumstances because they believe it’s our job to entertain them. Don’t stress about hearing the “Mom, I’m bored” refrain. They would say that if their arm wasn’t broken. Try to stock up on movies, books to read, and maybe a new coloring book or some new games for the tablet. Taking your kid to the public library is a great way to stock up on things to do while stuck on the couch or in bed and also remind your child that reading is better than playing Minecraft all day anyway.

Taking care of the cast isn’t too difficult.

I was expecting this to be a total nightmare, but it actually wasn’t too bad. After years of having to become a contortionist in the bathtub just to keep your cast dry, the medical world finally figured out parents needed a freaking break. Yes, you have to keep the cast dry, but you can also get them wet now (if you have about three hours to let them dry out). OK, so it still needs a little fine-tuning.

But most casts are waterproof now. Since my daughter showered at night, we just kept hers dry, because who the heck has three hours drying time to spare? You can buy a bag to wrap the cast in, but we just used a run-of-the-mill grocery bag and wrapped it around the cast, and let her take baths in our big tub. She rested her wrapped arm on a towel on the edge of the bathtub and eventually got pretty good at bathing herself independently. Contorting was kept to a minimum, thank goodness.

Kids may also have issues with itching and be tempted to stick something down in the cast to scratch that itch, but make sure to hide all the sharp objects in the house. The last thing you want is for your kid to take a kebob skewer, shove it down there and impale and infect the already broken limb. Consider learning about the benefits of deep breathing if your child goes into a scratch-induced rage.

Sleep will be uncomfortable at first.

Another thing to expect is that sleep will most likely be uncomfortable in the beginning, and your child will let you know that at 2 a.m. because of course they will. While you’re trying not to relish the fact that your kid kept you up all night in utero and now karma has come for them, you just might smile to yourself as you pull that giant pregnancy body pillow out of storage — for them. Don’t worry, they’ll figure it out eventually.

When the cast comes off…

When the big day comes to relieve you both of all your misery, don’t get too excited. Since your child’s arm or leg has been immobile for four weeks, it will be sore and difficult to stretch out — which means you won’t get immediate relief from your annoyance right away. It took my daughter several days before she could stretch her arm out and use it normally.

My daughter also almost passed out when her cast was removed. This surprised me, but the doctor said it was very common. Who knew? I guess since her arm just spent three weeks living mummified, it was a little creepy when the cast was lying there next to her like a discarded piece of herself. Luckily, she survived the de-mummification and did not faint thanks to the nurse with apple juice on hand.

For the most part, I’d say that our experience was pretty minor, and having a cast wasn’t as bad as I had previously expected. But like all things, there were some silver linings. She got a lot of attention from friends and family, and she soaked that up by having boys carry things for her at school. Can’t blame a girl for taking advantage of that situation.

And I’ll always have those three weeks when I had to do everything for her to hold over her head. I know that will work to my advantage at some point. So maybe it wasn’t so bad after all.