Child Life Specialists: How We Can Help Your Child When a Loved One is in the Hospital

Overview

Child Life Specialists, who are we? What is child life?

Child life specialists are healthcare professionals who help children and their families cope with medical experiences associated with hospitalization and illness. These professionals are trained in fields such as child life, child development, education, and psychology and certified by the Child Life Council.

Child life specialists promote effective coping through play, preparation, education, and self- expression activities. They provide emotional support for families and encourage optimum development of children who face a broad range of challenging experiences.

Child life specialists working in the adult hospital setting seek to help the children of adult patients understand their loved ones' medical experiences by providing develop- mentally appropriate preparation and education. Research has shown that providing preparation is beneficial to a child's long-term ability to cope and manage stress.

Child life services are available to any children aged 0 through 18 years who are affected by the hospitalization of an adult family member or friend. There is no charge for child life services at Cleveland Clinic.

What child life services are provided to the adult hospital?

Child life specialists focus on the psychosocial needs of children, collaborating with parents and/or adult family members in the following areas:

  • Education for children and teens on a new diagnosis, providing age-appropriate information about the adult’s illness and treatment
  • Adjustment of children and teens to changes in physical appearance and/or abilities of the adult patient
  • Preparation of children and teens for visiting a hospitalized adult
  • Navigation of challenging conversations with children related to an adult’s hospitalization, illness, and medical prognosis
  • Use of therapeutic activities and interventions to help children and teens cope with feelings and questions as a result of an adult’s medical condition
  • End-of-life and grief issues through the use of supportive services, legacy building, and bereavement care

Resources

To make an appointment with a child life specialist prior to a child's first visit to Cleveland Clinic Main Campus, Hillcrest Hospital or Fairview Hospital:

  • Ask the medical team to place a consult in EPIC or Vocera for a child life specialist.
  • Email the child life department using one of the following email addresses:
  • Call the child life department at one of the following phone numbers:
    • Main Campus 216.445.6454
    • Hillcrest Hospital 440.312.7737
    • Fairview Hospital 216.476.7216

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/01/2019.

References

  • Expert knowledge and experience of healthcare providers at Cleveland Clinic
  • Association of Child Life Professionals. The Child Life Profession. (https://www.childlife.org/the-child-life-profession) Accessed 4/1/2019.
  • Child life services. Pediatrics. 2014;133(5):e1471-8.

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