I was driving steadily down the road. I glanced in the review mirror and saw my son’s tiny toes peeping out from his car seat.
Tears welled up in my eyes.
“Pull yourself together!” I thought. “You are a child life specialist. This is only one shot.”
I was driving to my son’s one month old checkup where I dreaded his impending “poke”. As a child life specialist, I helped calm hundreds of kids who received injections. And yet, here I was, not even at the doctor’s office, a complete, blubbering mess.
Though this medical experience pales in comparison to other heartaches families endure, I am grateful for the realization this moment prompted in me to be sensitive to the needs of my patients’ parents. Even just one shot can feel like one too many when you see your child cry!
Here are a few tips you can use to support your child when facing a medical experience. And clearly, I will try to practice these suggestions, myself!
Try to remain calm! Children do sense and feed off your emotions.
Advocate if your child has certain needs the medical team can accommodate.
Make sure to prepare your child using honest and soft explanations before a medical visit. Use this guide of “Doctor Talk for you Kids” (or the “Simply Saying” app) to help explain common medical experiences.
Offer your child jobs they can do during the medical experience to give them a sense of control.
Don’t forget to play! Play is a powerful tool children use to express their feelings and process their experiences.
And, as far as the rest of the story with my son? I cried harder than he did for that poke in his chunky little thighs, and now…we recovered just fine.
Allie Jones is a Certified Child Life Specialist at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital where she works to care for the psychosocial needs of children through play. Allie also is the founder of the Child Life Cooperative, a website and podcast aimed at advancing the child life profession through reflection and unity and supporting students.