"If your young child resists washing her hands, or washes them too quickly, find ways to make it fun. Sing a favorite short song like Happy Birthday, recite a favorite nursery rhyme, or simply count to 20 together."
Dr. Elizabeth Goldman
Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York City
"What's a germ?" "Why does my stomach hurt?" "Why do cuts heal?" Kids who are sick or injured often have a lot of questions. And parents frequently wonder what the answer really is, and how to talk about medical information in ways kids will understand.
Kids think about their bodies in very visual, literal ways. Therefore, experts recommend parents answer medical questions using age-appropriate, simple, easy-to-visualize terms. Be brief and only tell your child what she needs to know, as too much information may overwhelm her. At the same time, respect your child's intelligence and try not to dumb ideas down.
It is useful to explain both what a condition or illness is and how it's treated. "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 a procedure better — whether you're talking about an operation, or simply taking medicine."
By putting something into words, you make it real and easier to deal with, even if it's not great news. "If you don't tell a child what's happening, she tends to fill in the blanks on her own. What a child makes up may be much more frightening than the reality," says Mathews.
This kid-friendly medical dictionary provides explanations for terms that relate to common illnesses and conditions. However, each child understands information at her own level. If you are searching for a term not mentioned here, ask your doctor, social worker or nurse to give you with an explanation that will help you put it in kid-friendly terms.