When a parent or other adult in a child’s life becomes seriously ill or injured, it can be difficult for the child to grasp what is happening. It can also be hard for the adult or other family members to know what to say to the child. In these situations, a child life specialist can help.

The Role of a Child Life Specialist

Our child life specialists use their knowledge of child development to educate, prepare and support children during an adult’s hospital stay. Using creative activities and other forms of communication, they seek to help children understand what is happening and reduce their stress and anxiety. They are available to help adult patients answer children’s questions and talk about their condition, as well as help children cope with the changes the family is undergoing.

How a Child Life Specialist Can Help Families

Child life specialists can help adult patients in many ways, such as:

  • Providing age-appropriate language to explain your medical condition or diagnosis
  • Helping prepare you and your children for bedside visits, particularly in the ICU or other specialty care unit
  • Helping your children cope during lengthy hospital stays and challenging times
  • Providing resources for difficult questions children may ask
  • Helping create lasting memories at a time of great sadness

Ways to Help Children Cope

Children can be helped to cope with an adult’s illness with:

Honest explanations of what is happening

  • Opportunities to express their feelings through art or writing
  • Ongoing preparation and support
  • Having choices, when possible, about their involvement at the adult’s bedside
  • Tasks that help them feel they have an important role in helping the ill adult
  • Encouragement to ask questions and a caring adult to listen and respond

Other Resources

Loved ones can print an activity book specially designed to prepare children for visiting a family member in the hospital. Including children in the hospital experience is helpful as long as children have appropriate information and preparation. This booklet helps you prepare and involve your child in an appropriate way.

The activity book also is available in the hospital at the Family Center.

How to Contact a Child Life Specialist

Child life services are available Monday through Friday.

Phone: 414-805-1935
Pager: 414-590-2577