Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals who work with children are particularly aware of and are sensitive to the stress and trauma that children may experience or perceive as the result of an illness, significant life event, or the loss of a loved one. Children process unexpected life changes differently than adults, and childhood trauma can have a profound impact on a child’s personality and coping skills through adulthood.
In healthcare settings, Certified Child Life Specialists utilize developmentally and psychologically appropriate tools such as therapeutic play, coping interventions, conversation, relaxation therapy, and supportive resources to help kids and family members cope, grieve and heal. Dr. Noze Best founder Dr. Steven Goudy has seen the tremendous benefits of such interventions throughout his career. But he is also acutely aware that these families may need support when they return home as well.
“Child Life Professionals offer a wealth of support and valuable medical knowledge in healthcare settings. But children and their families also need help coping long after they leave the hospital. Hearts Connected solves a real need in the marketplace by bringing this expertise into the home for families dealing with stressful situations,” says Dr. Goudy.
Hearts Connected was founded in 2020 by DD Fritch, a pediatric nurse of over 30 years and mom of three. As a nurse, she personally witnessed the impact Child Life Specialists had on children and their loved ones while facing situations during their medical care that were hard to understand. She was moved to bring these services—typically only available to patients in pediatric hospitals—to home and community settings. DD and her team now connect children, parents, caregivers, and family members with Child Life Specialists all over the United States.
The specific training a Child Life Specialist receives in hospital settings equips them with valuable medical knowledge to educate, prepare, and support children of all ages. (And this even includes many years of practice with proper nasal suctioning! A topic near and dear to our hearts.)
Can a Child Life Specialist help your family?
If your family is facing a stressful or challenging situation, Hearts Connected and their network of Child Life Specialists can help. Some of the ways they offer support include:
- Preparing families for procedures, medical or dental visits, and doctor appointments
- Helping children understand a new diagnosis and navigating the care that is involved
- Guiding parents through conversations regarding grief, loss, and end-of-life circumstances
- Navigating discussions related to life transitions such as divorce, imprisonment, or deployment
- Providing support for the sibling of a child with special needs
- Developing success strategies for new routines related to virtual learning and social distancing
Collaborating closely with your family, Child Life Specialists will use a variety of techniques that vary by developmental age, the setting, and the situation at hand.
“A specialized approach to trauma and major life changes with children is so necessary because of how differently children process information,” says DD. “They need specific strategies and therapeutic outlets to manage stressors and trauma. Of course, support from their parents and family play a major role in how they cope with overwhelming situations. But help from a highly trained professional is something from which the entire family benefits, in the moment and lover the long term.”
You can learn more about Hearts Connected and the services they provide on their website.