How Child Life Helps
- Child Life teaches children about the procedure they will undergo through therapeutic medical play and intervention.
- Child Life offers children the chance to learn coping mechanisms for use during procedures and/or treatments.
- Child Life helps the child demonstrate his or her knowledge of the hospital routine as revealed through their play.
- Child Life helps children understand their feelings on diagnosis and treatment through play.
- Child Life provides pre-surgical information in simple, easy-to-understand language that is developmentally appropriate.
- Child Life helps siblings understand their brother or sister’s illness or injury.
- Child Life teaches children how to share information about their illness or injury with friends or classmates.
- Child Life provides children or caregivers additional information about the impact of the illness or injury on the child’s development.
- Child Life helps ensure children encounter a positive learning experience while hospitalized.
- Child Life helps children deal with stress and/or anxiety about medical experiences.
- Child Life assesses the environment through the eyes of a child.
- Child Life provides the patient therapeutic interventions such as preparation, distraction and pain management.
What Parents Can Do
- Gather information
Know why your child needs a procedure, how the procedure may feel and how long it will last. Consider being with your child during the procedure and ask a child life specialist about medical play.
- Be honest and sensitive
Explain to your child why the procedure is needed and what will likely be heard, felt and seen. Be honest with your child about what may hurt and what will not. Try to avoid creating undue concern for your child.
- Encourage curiosity and exploration
Becoming familiar with the hospital, doctor’s office or clinic and understanding the equipment that will be used during treatment or diagnosis is very important to a child. Help your child learn about the purpose of the examination and the medical equipment with which they will be in contact.
- Reassure your child
Make sure your child knows that the hospital, doctor’s office or clinic is not a punishment and is not necessarily a place where children will experience pain.
- Use simple language
When describing a medical procedure, try to use words that do not have double meanings or are threatening. Use the word “medicine” instead of “dye,” “bed on wheels” instead of “gurney” and “numb” or “make sleepy” instead of “deaden.”
- Listen to your child’s concerns
Let your child know that it is okay to ask questions, cry and talk about his or her feelings.
- Give your child choices
Allowing children to take more of a role in the procedure, such as deciding which finger gets stuck with a needle, or whether they sit on the examining table or on a parent’s lap for a shot, can help lessen anxiety and pain related to painful procedures.
- Help your child manage pain
Many coping strategies can be used to help reduce anxiety and perceptions of pain and discomfort. Teach your child that deep, steady breathing can help them cope with the pain. Let them squeeze your hand and say, “Ouch!” or “That hurt!” Distract your child with songs, books, blowing bubbles, video games, music, etc., to divert attention from pain and anxiety. Know it is okay to ask for a topical medicine for your child, which can help minimize the pain and discomfort of needle sticks.
- Comfort your child
Touching is an important part of healing. If medical needs prevent you from holding or rocking your child, you may still stroke your child or hold his or her hand.
- Encourage play
Children learn about their world and how to cope by playing. Play gives children control and a way to work out and understand their feelings. Playing with puppets, painting pictures, telling stories, etc.—before and after a procedure—are some meaningful ways to teach children about their health care needs and experiences. Ask for someone from the child life team, including our “volunteer grandparents” to stop by for a visit.
The Child Life Program offers pre-admission tours to help familiarize children and their families with the hospital. If possible, we recommend taking the tour when hospitalization for medical testing, surgery or other procedures are planned in advance.
Contact the Child Life Program at (562) 933-8060 to make reservations.