If you are a parent, caregiver, or family member of a child facing a stressful life event – particularly an acute injury or illness, a chronic disease, or a loss – it is common to feel helpless and overwhelmed.
And if they are receiving treatment at a healthcare institution, you may be wondering “what kind of experience will my child face in the hospital?” – a place that is often viewed as scary, cold, and unwelcoming.
If the facility has a child life program, you can feel assured that you will have access to a specialist who is there to advocate for the unique needs of your child and family.
Child life specialists make the hospital environment an inviting one by providing coping support through play, preparation, and education.
They also provide distraction and emotional support during tests and procedures.
Shatisha, whose daughter visits The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore on a monthly basis for her blood disorder, is grateful for the distraction Mariyah receives when getting her IV inserted.
“Without [child life specialist] Talia, I think she would be more agitated – she would fight more. But Talia makes her feel more relaxed and comfortable. She gets Mariyah to focus on all the fun things they are going to do after she gets the needle.”
Child life specialists also understand the emotional and physical toll this has on you and your family members and will treat you with respect and empathy as they guide you through the healthcare experience.
At just 7-years-old, Liyah is a regular visitor to Montefiore, where she is treated for her sickle cell disease. Her dad, Kyle, is always by her side but admits he often feels helpless, especially when she bottles up her emotions.
“To see your child is experiencing depression or grief, it takes a toll on us as well,” he shared.
While children struggle with their physical pain, they may feel the need to keep their emotions to themselves in order to protect their parents. But child life specialists like Talia can help them open up about their emotions through therapeutic play and self-expression activities.
“Sometimes my daughter won’t tell me certain things. But she’ll speak with Talia and express how she’s feeling,” says Kyle. “It’s a sense of relief.”
Her regular visits have also helped Liyah master the game of UNO. “The first time she beat them I thought they were being nice. But by the second or third time I thought ‘Wow! She’s a champ’,” says an impressed Kyle. “It helps her develop as well because she’s learning to express herself.”
If your child will be receiving treatment at a healthcare institution in the Greater New York area, visit our membership directory to see what child life services they offer.