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
A child life specialist is a certified professional who uses developmental, educational and therapeutic interventions to help children cope with illness and hospitalization. While a child life specialist is most often found in a children’s hospital, Froedtert Hospital offers the services of a child life specialist to help children touched by an adult’s illness. This may be a parent, grandparent or other significant adult in a child’s life.
Our child life specialist uses her knowledge of child development to educate, prepare and support children during the adult’s hospital stay. Using creative activities and other forms of communication, she seeks to help children understand what is happening and reduce their stress and anxiety. She is 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
The child life specialist 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
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 the Child Life Specialist
Child life services are available Mondays and Tuesdays and by appointment.
Suzanne Berg, B.S., Certified Child Life Specialist