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Caring for Critically Ill Kids
Kid-Friendly Medical Index
One of the challenges in caring for a critically ill child is explaining medical terminology in a way kids can understand it. While doctors and nurses may start explaining these concepts to children, parents continue the discussion long after the doctor has left the room.
Kids view their bodies in very tangible ways, and experts at Children's Memorial Hospital recommend parents explain medical issues to them in practical, visual terms, using language they can understand. They stress that it's important to both describe what is being done, and why. "This gives a child back some control over her body." advises social worker Mary Mathews. "She will not only calm down, but will also tolerate the procedure better -- whether you're talking about an operation, or simply taking medicine. Also, if you don't tell a child what's happening, she tends to fill in the blanks on her own, and what she makes up may be much more frightening than the reality."
Pediatric oncologist Dr. Stewart Goldman concurs. "When I tell a child he will get a bone scan, he needs to first understand why he's getting it," explains Dr. Goldman. "So I say, `This is so we can tell which part of your bone we need to treat to help it get better.' Then I explain how the procedure works, saying 'You just rest on a table, and lay still while a round or oval arm moves over your body like a giant Geiger counter. The picture appears on a screen. It doesn't hurt.' This explanation alleviates the fear and lets the child know exactly what will happen."
These kid-friendly explanations are designed to help parents describe procedures and conditions to children ages seven and up. However, each child can understand information at an individualized level. You know your child best, so should gauge your explanations accordingly. Some parents have found simple explanations like these to even be helpful for themselves.
Helpful Strategies for Explaining Terms
Review these talking tips before your next conversation with your child.
Medical Terms for Kids
Try these simple explanations from doctors and social workers at Children's Memorial Hospital.
"Teenagers need to feel they are part of their care and in charge of their bodies. Specific information gives them that power. As a parent, you know your child better than anyone, so you have to gauge how much information your teenager can handle, while respecting her intelligence."
Dr. Stewart Goldman
Pediatric Oncologist