What's All The Buzz About Child Life?

In the last couple weeks, you may have seen in the news that New Orleans Saints’ punter Thomas Morstead raised $221,143 for Children’s Minnesota’s Child Life program and is now in the process of raising over $100,000 for Child Life programs in Louisiana. What is Child Life? And why should you want Child Life at your local hospital? Although it often doesn’t receive a lot of attention, Child Life plays a huge role for kids across the world.

What Do Child Life Specialists Do?

Child life specialists make a difference. They can motivate young cancer patients to finish difficult physical therapy exercises they don’t want to do and undergo radiotherapy without having to be sedated. They can help a sick teenager learn to deal with extreme pain while bringing a smile to her face. And they can distract a little boy from pain and fear so that he’s laughing during a catheterization. How do they do it?

Child life specialists help children and their families cope with stressful experiences by decreasing anxiety and helping them feel comfortable. Hospitals can be overwhelming for kids when they’re away from home and met with scary equipment, confusing medical terms, and painful treatments. Trained in child development, child life specialists provide support for patients, like preparing them for stressful procedures, sharing coping strategies to help them deal with pain and anxiety, and guiding them through processing their illness or the death of loved ones. Often, they use medical play, where kids can learn about medical equipment and procedures through the language they speak best: play. They also distract children during procedures like shots and blood draws using toys, electronic devices like tablets, and a well-trained intuition on how to best keep children at ease.

Child life specialists allow kids to be kids by bringing play, joy, and wonder back into the hospital. No child wants to be sick, and child life teams create opportunities for hospitalized children to escape into worlds of art, music, games, and imagination. They are often patients’ “favorite people in the hospital.” Studies have shown that kids are more cooperative with their treatment when they have the type of support that child life specialists give, which leads to better physical and emotional healing and positive outcomes for everyone involved.

How Can You Advocate for Child Life at Your Local Hospital?

Most Child Life programs are funded through donations and grants alone, so they rely heavily on the community’s support to provide excellent experiences for children. Please consider visiting Thomas Morstead’s campaign or look into your local children’s hospital’s Child Life program to see how you can contribute.

Spread the world about Child Life and get involved! Child life teams often have volunteering and community events at the hospital. Keep your eyes open for such opportunities and play a part.

To learn more about child life, check out the Association of Child Life Professionals.