By Julian Cate, CCLS, Mission Children’s Hospital
The practice known as Child Life is a growing field. Child Life Specialists work with children and their families to reduce anxiety, stress and fear associated with medical procedures and diagnoses. A newer concept recently introduced and being implemented within the Child Life program at Mission Health is the Community Resiliency Model (CRM), which has a goal of understanding the effects of stress and trauma on the nervous system and how to integrate the practice of resiliency into relieving those symptoms associated with stress and trauma. CRM teaches that anyone of any culture, background, or educational level can learn to reset their nervous system using simple to learn science-based methods so that those symptoms associated with distress and anxiety (tight shoulders, fast heart rate, nervous stomach)are replaced with feelings of comfort and an overall sense of wellbeing.
CRM has become a “go-to” approach for some Child Life Specialists at Mission Children’s Hospital in helping patients and their caretakers cope with hospitalization. Parents are often hungry for ways in which they can help manage their own stress and the stress held by their hospitalized child. Child Life Specialists use CRM to teach parents and their children how to notice the difference between what their bodies feel like when emotions like fear and anxiety creep in verses emotions like happiness, calmness and safety. Through conversations about their struggles and joys in life, they quickly connect that our reactions to stress are simply biological and not signs of weakness. For anyone dealing with a hospitalized child, this can be especially powerful. It takes the blame off the parents and their child struggling to comply with the medical treatment without tears and frustration. Knowing that we are all beautifully designed to react to stress and trauma in the same way can be a real breaking ground for any individual battling with life’s trails and upsets.
Julian Cate, CCLS, is a Child Life Specialist with Mission Children’s Hospital who has used these conversation tools and the skills of regulating the nervous system with children in the playroom, at the bedside with an adolescent experiencing pain and sadness, and even with a parent pacing the halls of the pediatric unit. Most importantly she adds that she uses the skills herself in her daily life. For more information about the Community Resiliency Model please visit www.communityresiliencymodel.com. For more information on Mission Children’s Hospital, visit www.missionchildrens.org.