Dear Savvy Auntie,

About 3 weeks ago I was having a fun day with my 4 year old nephew and 2 year old niece. While walking across the floor I tripped and fell on my nephew. He was taken to the emergency room later that evening and found out that I broke his clavicle and bruised his ribs. He was in a sling for about a week and couldn't play at all. His mom took him to the doctor the other day and he is healing very nicely and shouldn't have any more problems. Nobody blames me for what happened, they all know it was an accident but, my question, is how do I get over the guilt of hurting him? My niece seems reluctant to let me watch the kids again, and I think my nephew is kind of afraid of me. What can I do?


Regretful Auntie

Dear Regretful Auntie,

Dear Regretful Auntie,

Join the club! Almost every auntie at some time or another inadvertently hurts their niece or nephew. It always hurts the adults  longer and the child gets over it much more quickly. Since you most certainly did not intend to hurt him you need not feel guilty, badly yes, but not guilty. Although the tendency is to move on and not talk about it, the upset will heal with talk about it. So, bring up the topic with your nephew in a lighthearted manner..."Remember when I tripped and fell on you? That was scary! I am so sorry you were hurt! I couldn't keep my balance. Did you ever trip? Did you ever lose your balance?" Of course, these are suggested phrases that should be casual and spaced well apart so he can answer and contribute his version of the experience. You can talk about how brave he was and how hard it was to wear a sling. You can play at balancing games like standing on tip toe or on one foot.

Unless his mother is overprotective, I see no reason for her to hold this isolated incident over you.

Happy Healing,
Natalie Robinson Garfield

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