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Child Life Specialists: Making the Hospital Less Scary for Kids

November 12, 2020
The hospital can be a scary place for children and the adults who love them. At GBMC, Child Life Specialists like Jennifer Seiler, MED, CCLS, are there to help ease anxiety and answer any questions that children and parents have while they’re in the emergency department (ED) or the hospital. Jennifer and Mary Beth Marsden talked about how Child Life Specialists help families and what parents can do to be effective advocates for their children.

“You are your child’s best advocate,” Jennifer said. “Don’t be afraid to ask the doctors and nurses questions or ask them to explain what’s happening with your child. And remember, you know your child best. Share what works and what doesn’t with your child in terms of getting them to cooperate and helping them feel safe.”

She also suggested that when you bring your child to the ED, if possible, bring his or her comfort item, whether that’s a blanket, stuffed animal, or tablet, so that your child has something familiar and calming with them during this stressful experience.

Jennifer and GBMC’s other Child Life Specialists are available at no cost to any child receiving care in the ED or as an inpatient. They help children and families know what to expect in the hospital and can explain treatments and demonstrate certain procedures to help prepare your child.

“What I always say is there are no surprises,” she said. “If your child needs an IV, we’ll explain how it works so that they’re as prepared as possible. The goal is to reduce the child and parents’ anxiety and give a sense of control back to them. We ensure that the voices of our patients and their parents are heard and that they’re part of the decision-making process.”

Child Life Specialists are also there to support parents and caregivers. “Your main job is to support your child, but we know you’re also worried and stressed,” Jennifer added. “We’re here to support you and answer your questions. Children look to their parents for how to react, so our goal is to help you be as calm as possible so both you and your child are less anxious.”
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