Helping Your Child Cope During Procedures

As a parent, you understand the ways your child copes better than anyone else. The staff is committed to working with you and your child to help cope with procedures that are part of treatment.

It is important to talk to children on a level they can understand.  One may use picture books and/or dolls for younger children (i.e., pre-school or school-aged) who tend to be concrete-thinkers. These children often do better if they know the plan ahead of time. They need to know, for example, what will be expected of them.

When preparing children for procedures, give the most threatening information last so that they hear everything else.

Finally, try to avoid making comparisons such as "this will hurt like a bee sting." (A child may not have been stung and cannot compare, or if they were stung, it may have been very traumatic and painful.) 

Most children want a parent (or primary caregiver) to be with them. The staff encourages family presence during procedures. If you can't be present for some reason, let your child know where you will be waiting.

If a procedure is being done in an operating room, parents can wait in the nearby waiting areas and reassure their child that they will be with him or her as soon as possible.

There are many ways to cope with painful procedures; pain medicines are only one solution. More specifically, research and experience have shown that relaxation techniques are very helpful in dealing with pain and discomfort. Encourage your child to blow bubbles or imaginary ones, tell jokes, say the alphabet, count out loud, listen to music, play with a toy or video game, or even talk about friends or schoolwork.

You may also utilize guided imagery. This occurs when you help a child use his / her imagination. Your child can imagine a happy time or place; it's similar to pretending. Some children, for example, pretend to ride on a magic carpet so that they can be at another place in their mind. They usually close their eyes and are able to describe sounds, sights and smells. It's a good form of distraction.

When communicating with children, it is important to remember two things: be honest and offer choices that are realistic.

  • Please remember that children should always be told the truth if something will hurt. If they are lied to, they may learn not to trust people, especially adults.
  • During a procedure, try to give your child a sense of control by offering simple, realistic choices. For example, "Do you want to count or sing a song with me?" By providing such options, children consequently feel empowered in an unfamiliar environment.

Last Updated 03/2014