Child Life


Every day thousands of children are subjected to painful, often misunderstood, procedures in hospitals across the country. There are programs in existence today designed to lessen the stress experienced by children and their families. If this stress is left unchecked, the child often has a rocky post-hospitalization period, haunted by nightmares or sleep disturbances, bedwetting, feeding problems, screaming and persistent crying.

Child Life Specialists are experienced in understanding your child's needs while in the hospital and can help provide the most positive experience possible.

Child Life Specialists are trained to ease these fears through various forms of therapeutic interventions and coping strategies. The therapeutic interventions include:
  • Therapeutic play: Using dolls to role play the procedure -- letting the child observe the procedure or pretend to be the doctor.
  • Modeling: A child models another child's successful coping skills while undergoing a medical procedure.
  • Rehearsal: "Trying out" new coping behaviors.
  • Contingency management: Providing the child with positive reinforcers such as verbal praise, trophies or small toys for practicing or using coping skills.
  • Parent preparation: Addressing the parents' anxiety by providing information about the procedure and/or suggestions for helping their child.

Coping strategies used by our Child Life Specialists include:

  • Procedural information: Providing the child with specific information about the procedure -- showing the child the instruments, the examination room and explaining how long the procedure will take, why it is done and who will perform it.
  • Sensory information: Providing the child with specific information about sensations that are likely to be experienced during the procedure (how it will feel, sound, smell and taste).
  • Relaxation training: Teaching the child to relax muscle groups of the body.
  • Breathing exercises: Teaching the child to take slow, deep breaths during the procedure.
  • Distraction: Teaching the child to shift point of focus to things other than the procedure.
  • Positive self-talk: Teaching the child statements to say during the procedure such as "This will be over in a minute," "I will be all right," "This will help the doctor make me well."
  • Guided Imagery: Teaching the child to visualize positive and distracting images.

More than anything, play is the tool our Child Life Specialists use to make your child feel more at home and less threatened by the hospital atmosphere. It has been said that play is the work of children -- their language, their window of the world. In the pediatric units, play is an ongoing, ever-present activity which is respected, encouraged and fostered by the Child Life Program.

Should you have any further questions, please call the Child Life Department at 918-502-6333 or email

For those interested in donating goods or services to the children in The Children's Hospital, please visit The Children's Hospital at Saint Francis Foundation for guidelines and contact information.