Child life specialists are trained professionals with expertise in helping children and their families overcome life’s most challenging events such as chronic illness, hospitalization or the death of a loved one. Armed with a strong background in child development and experience in medical settings, child life specialists help empower and support children through difficult situations by providing developmentally appropriate preparation and explanations, procedural support and therapeutic play opportunities.

Does your child have a fear of the doctor?

It is common for children to be fearful of routine doctor and dental visits. Explanations given that are appropriate for the child’s developmental age plus the opportunity to experience medical play can help desensitize the child and allow them to express their fears in a safe environment. I work with children and families to desensitize, prepare and practice coping strategies for doctor visits. Fear of shots is a major stressor for children and I can provide coping tips for both the child and the caregiver to allow for a better experience at the doctor.

 

Does your child need surgery or a specific procedure and you’re not sure how to tell them or what to expect?

Child life specialists have a background of working in medical settings preparing and supporting children through medical procedures. II can provide emotional support, as well as a variety of core activities including developmentally appropriate medical play/preparation and procedural support. This helps children cope with their illness/injury and learn about medical/surgical procedures, hospital routines and the medical team they will encounter during their stay. I have a familiarization with many of the local hospitals where children have procedures done and can help you know what to expect. Studies show that children who are prepared for medical encounters cope better and have reduced levels of stress. Parents who are well prepared are in turn better able to support their child.

 

Is there an adult (parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, caregiver, etc.) who is hospitalized or facing a difficult diagnosis such as cancer?

The hospitalization of a family member can be stressful, especially if you’re a child. Additional stress is placed upon the adult who may not know how to best speak with their child about a loved one’s illness. Here a just a few ways I can help minimize stress and promote coping:

  • Help explain a diagnosis in a way that a child can understand based on their developmental age

  • Provide preparation for bedside hospital visit including what the child will see and hear

  • Offers suggestions and support regarding separation away from caregivers who may be spending time at the hospital

  • Provide therapeutic activities to process emotions and enhance coping

Has there been a death in your family?

Death is one of the hardest subjects to talk about with a child. Children process death in many ways, depending on their age and developmental level and their understanding is not the same as an adults. Helping  prepare a child for a loss , helping provide support and guidance for parents after a death or helping prepare a child for a funeral are some of the ways I can help.