07 Mar What is a child life specialist?
Guest Blogger: Sarah Nyland, Certified Child Life Specialist
WHAT IS A CHILD LIFE SPECIALIST? HOW CAN A CHILD LIFE SPECIALIST HELP MY FAMILY?
Children process stress and trauma in many different ways, depending on their age and development, that is very different than adults. Child life specialist understand the developmental impact of trauma and assist children and their families when dealing with an illness, trauma, or loss (death, divorce, or relocation). Child life specialists are trained professionals with expertise in helping children and their families overcome these stressful situations that may overwhelm their ability to cope. By using creative approaches, they teach children new strategies and build upon their current skills to help them process and understand their trauma in a healthy way. A child life specialist uses evidence-based research to assess and create developmentally appropriate plans of care. The goal of a child life specialist is to empower and support children through difficult situations by providing preparation and explanations, as well as therapeutic and play-based interventions.
SITUATIONS THAT MAY WARRANT A CHILD LIFE SPECIALIST:
A child life specialist gains insight into a child’s coping and development through play and assessment. A child life specialist uses play in sessions such as therapeutic play, educational play, and medical play. A child life specialist provides a safe, warm and non-judgemental environment to help children:
- regulate their emotions
- prepare for a loss (for example, divorce)
- cope after a loved one’s death
- process a medical diagnosis or disability (including parent or sibling support)
Parent’s may feel overwhelmed by supporting their children’s needs, questions, and emotions revolving around trauma. Currently, the COVID-19 pandemic has created an increase in anxiety with children and families. Families coping with additional struggles of recent loss, isolation or illness may feel even more vulnerable. A child life specialist can work with the specific needs of each family to assess the situation and provide strategies to promote the social and emotional well-being of children and families.