Relationships with family and friends after a burn

This section covers:

  • Relationships with parents and siblings
  • Parenting approaches
  • Friendships

For the people we spoke to, there could be impacts from having a burn on their relationships with immediate family and friends. These impacts varied and could depend on whether the person was burnt as a child or an adult or was a parent to a child with a burn.

Many expressed their appreciation to their families and friends and saw them as a key source of support following a burn injury and during the recovery.

Sarah and her family appreciate the time they spend together more now.

Relationships with parents and siblings

A burn injury can impact on the whole family, in both practical and emotional ways. Some people spoke about their family dynamic changing after the burn injury. This included practical roles and tasks, as Sarah found: “our whole family dynamic changed completely from how we were before… It was very difficult to step back from all of the things that I do [and for someone else to do them instead]”. Saffron explained how, as soon as she was discharged from hospital, her Mum effectively became her “part-time nurse”.

Natasha, Clare and India, who were all burnt as children, reflected that the impact of their burns on their parents had been devastating. This included their parents feeling “guilty”, helpless, or carrying a lot of blame about their burns.

As India has grown older, she has learnt a lot more about how her burn injury affected her parents. She feels incredibly grateful for the support of her family.

Some of the people we spoke to who were children when burnt had siblings. India thinks her brothers might have found it “challenging” having a sister that “went through a very intense accident” when they were only young themselves: “I was three, my brothers were five and seven… Naturally, that child who’s got the injury is going to get a little bit more attention”. Claire and Saffron recalled some sibling rows and name-calling related to their burn injuries.

Saffron felt that her brother, who was born shortly after her accident, had “a different start than I did”. She added that he didn’t get to join in with social activities that were only for children with burns.

A few of the people we spoke with shared that it was important to talk about what had happened as a family. India said this can be “therapeutic”. Kate’s dad had told her that watching Kate receive treatment was “one of the hardest things he’s done”, and this was “a weird concept” for her as she saw him as the “big, strong Dad”. You can read more about the emotional impact for parents of having children with burn injuries here. However, Charlotte said that her burns weren’t talked about within the family much, and she sometimes felt like she wasn’t ‘allowed’ to talk about it.

For people who were burnt as children, their immediate family could be an important influence on the way they saw themselves and their burns going forwards. Kate appreciated that her parents never made a big deal of her having burns. India says she “owes so much” to her parents and brothers for their support, helping her “live as best a life as I can”.

Tara’s parents would always ask whether a treatment was for function or appearance, and to weigh up the potential risks or downsides. She thinks this was very influential on her approach.

Parenting approaches

Having a burn injury themselves could affect how some people parented their children. Charlotte said she felt she was a “more anxious” parent because of her burn. She told us she tries to find a “balance” between keeping her children protected and not allowing her burn to affect how her children experience the world. Claire felt that her burn had influenced her cooking preferences as an adult, opting for an air fryer instead of frying foods.

Charlotte and her partner have conversations about their parenting approach, which includes thinking about risks and the importance of mental health within the family.

Haydn thinks his approach to parenting has stayed the same regardless of his burn injury. Reflecting on telling his children what had happened, he also said it was important that “they could see that I was calm about it”.

A few people who were young adults when burnt, like Tom, also reflected on how their relationship with their parents had changed. Tom thinks that his parents have become more anxious about him since his accident. In turn, he thinks he has become more aware of his parents having worries and struggles of their own.


Many of the people we spoke to told us that their friendships were very important to them as they recovered from their burn and tried to cope with the challenges they faced afterwards. People saw their friends as a source of support if ever they wanted to talk. India, Frazer and Charlotte described having a close-knit “circle” of good friends around them.

For some people who were burnt as adults, existing friendships continued to be important and, in some ways, were strengthened. Frazer told us that his friends were “essential” whilst he was recovering from his burn, making him feel “safe and welcome”, and they were “understanding” about how he was feeling.

It was important to Haydn that his friends treated him the same as they did before he was burnt.

Helen Y was also burnt as an adult. She told us about the time that a friend brought her a home cooked meal whilst she was recovering after her burn and she appreciated knowing that others took the time to think of her.

Small acts of thoughtfulness by friends were important to Helen Y when she was recovering.

Some of the people who were burnt as children also spoke about the importance of maintaining friendships with people they had known before the burn. Speaking of one friend in particular, Saffron told us it was “good to have someone who’s been there throughout on a friendship basis”. When Sabrina was burnt, all of her friends at school were made aware of what had happened and that she would have a visible injury. She thinks this preparation with her peers was why none of her friendships were impacted.

Saffron’s best friend has been there for her since before the burn.

India said she has a “good support system” and her friends will always “have her back”.

A few people talked about meeting people and making new friendships. Charlotte sometimes felt nervous meeting new people and thinks that she is not as outgoing because of the impact of her burn on her appearance. India described finding it hard as a teenager when her friends struggled with “body image issues”, which left her feeling insecure about her appearance too. You can read more here about experiences of appearance, body image and self-esteem.

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