Sunday, March 27, 2011

What parents can do to help a child through a hospital stay

What Parents Can Do

  • Get the who, what, why, and how about the stay
    get information about who your child will be seeing, what kind of procedure or treatment they will need, why your child needs a procedure, how the procedure or treatment may feel and how long it will last.  Advocate for your child by being with your child during the procedure, if you are told no.  Ask to see a charge nurse and fight for your right to be present for the procedure.
  • Be 100% honest and empathetic
    Explain why they are being hospitalized or why a specific procedure is needed.  Explain to the child what they will feel, hear, smell, and see.  Be honest!  If the procedure will hurt- tell them. 
  • Encourage curiosity and exploration
    Becoming familiar with the medical environment and the equipment that will be used during treatment or procedures is very important to a child ability to cope with the unknown surroundings. They are much less afraid of an object if they have had exposure to it where they felt control some over it.
  • Reassure your child
    Make it clear that their hospitalization or procedure is not a punishment, many children view it as such.  Make sure they understand the reason they are being hospitalized or why they need a proceudre, with the end goal to help their bodies get better so they can feel better and go home.
  • Use simple, soft language
    When describing a medical procedure, try to use words that do not have double meanings or are threatening in any way.  “poke” instead of “stick or prick” and “numb” or “sleepy medicine” instead of “put to sleep”
  • Listen and validate your child’s concerns
    Let your child know that it is okay to ask questions, cry and talk about his or her feelings.  If you really listen to a childs questions, you can see underlying concern and fear behind the question.  Address these fears and concerns openly.
  • Give your child choices
    Allow your child to take more of an active role in their treatment plan.  For example, letting them deciding which arm they want their poke or whether they sit on the examining table or on a parent’s lap.  Giving them a part in these decisions can help lessen the anxiety they feel about the treatment or procedure.
  • Comfort your child
    Touching is an important part of healing. Hold and cuddle your child as often as the child needs.  If medical needs prevent you from holding or rocking your child, it may be possible to still stroke your child or hold his or her hand.
  • Allow and encourage play.  Either in the playroom or at bedside
    Children learn about their world and how to cope with fears and unknowns by playing. Some parents often say, my child is too sick to play.  NO WAY! Play gives children some control and a way to make sense of their feelings. Playing with dolls or toy figures, drawing pictures, or role play are not only a way for a child cope and escape reality, it is a meaningful way to teach children about their health care experiences. Ask if a Child Life Specialist is on staff.  If so, make sure to request one! 

* adapted from "What Parents Can Do To Help", Miller Children's Hospital.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Taking Children to funerals. Yes or No???????????

Today a friend asked me what I thought about bringing children to funerals. I have had a lot if experience in this area so my friends ask me this a lot. I say this.........every human grieves. Whether you are a infant or elderly or in between. Children have a need to grieve, although adults often assume that a child does not grieve because they will most likely not show the outward signs of emotional loss like adults do. I believe that every child has the right to grieve and be given the opportunity to say goodbye on their own terms. This may be making a picture, writing a letter, singing a song, or bringing a gift to the deceased. When you are faced with the question,"Should I bring my child to the funeral?". The answer is....ask them. If they want to go and say goodbye, let them! But, don't force them.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Do you know how a Child Life Specialist can help you?

A Child life specialist works in both impatient and outpatient medical settings.  Often times parents go through the medical environment with their children not even knowing what a Child Life Specialist (CLS) can do for them.  Many times CLS's are referred to as the "Play lady" or someone who takes kids to the playroom or brings toys.  Did you know that a CLS uses toys as a modality to:
  • Ease a child’s fear and anxiety with both therapeutic and recreational play activities and toys
  • Foster an environment that incorporates emotional support and the individual child's development
  • Provide a means to escape from the realities of their medical situation and just act like a kid
Child Life Specialists also:
  • Encourage understanding and cooperation by providing non-medical preparation and support for children undergoing tests, surgeries, and other medical procedures
  • Advocate for family-centered care.  Meaning that the family is included in decision making, considered part of the team, and welcomed to stay with their children during procedures and tests.
  • Engage and energize children and families by planning and coordinating special events, entertainment, and fun activities.
  • Consider siblings or other children who may also affected by a child’s illness or trauma, work with them and address their needs as well as the patient's
  • Give pre-admission tours and provide resources, and consultations with outpatient families
  • Support children and families confronting grief and bereavement issues
  • Provide information and resources for parents and members of the interdisciplinary team  
* Adapted from the Child Life Council "How A Child Life Specialist Can Help You"  at

Taking Care of Precious Ones

Welcome to my first blog.  I am a Certified Child Life Specialist who assisted critically ill children and their families in preparing for medical procedures for more than ten years at Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Los Angeles.  My passion for helping children expands globally.  You can help too.  When you purchase a copy of my book called Taking Care of Precious Ones.  Not only will you empower yourself to help your child cope effectively with the medical arena, but half of all profits will be donated to Zoe International's "Zoe Children's Homes".  This incredible charity rescues children from human trafficking and brings them to a safe home to be educated, loved and cared for.

That is it for now!
Thanks for reading