Child Life Programs and Their Impact on the Stress and Strain Experienced by Hospitalized Children
The goal of a child life program is to establish a comprehensive approach that meets the emotional and social needs of pediatric patients and their families. The programs help hospitalized children continue, as nearly as possible, their patterns of normal growth and development. Child life programs work to establish a non-threatening environment that prevents and relieves distress, and provides therapeutic and recreational activities, education, and ongoing support for family members (Child Life Council, 2009). Within the health care setting, therapeutic play serves many purposes. It helps children express feelings of anxiety, regain control, learn about hospital procedures, prepare for medical events, and enables them to be active participants in their care. The research I conducted, coupled with previous research in the field of child life shows that child life programs do have a positive impact on the stress and strain of hospitalization experienced by children. Stress is a major component in the lives of hospitalized children and child life programs do their part to combat that stress. Through the use of directed and non-directed play, both as a means of entertainment and a means of communication, child life programs help pediatric patients express themselves. Developmentally appropriate therapeutic and recreational activities help patients, their families, and staff members alike, recognize/shed light on the stress the child may be experiencing. Once that stress is out in the open, members of the child life community are then able to decide the necessary distractions and interventions to handle and alleviate said stress. Taking into account the developmental stages of the patient, child life programs are then able to cater to the patient’s exact needs.